#1119: “I can’t trade cat-sitting services with a friend this fall. Is this a friendship ender?”

Good afternoon Captain Awkward!

I have a friendship quandary.

My good friend Donna and I travel somewhat regularly for work and for fun. She and I are both cat owners and we have fallen into a routine where we take care of each other’s cats when one of us is out of town.

A couple weeks ago, my near-life-long dear friend Vivian invited me on a trip to come see her for a weekend in the early fall and she generously booked and paid for half the plane ticket. The other half I’m booking and paying for, and the exact timing of that is a little up in the air right now for job-related reasons.

When this trip came up in casual conversation between myself and Donna, Donna said that she had travel plans that same weekend. “Oh, cool. That’s a bummer you won’t be around to take care of my cat,” I said. I thought nothing of it.

The next day, I received a number of text messages from Donna telling me that she was extremely upset to find out that I had made other plans for that weekend and she won’t be able to “let this go” without saying something because evidently, I had agreed to take care of her cat that same weekend.

I had zero recollection of this and I told her so. I admitted that it was entirely plausible that she and I had a discussion about it and I forgot (my life has been on absolute fire this month, so a few things have fallen through the cracks). She then sent me a screen shot of a text exchange that happened between us several weeks ago where she inquired about my availability for the weekend in question. I replied that I “should be” available. And after my reply, she changed the subject. She said that’s the extent of the conversation on the matter and says that we did chat about it in person before I asked her to text me the dates in that conversation. (Seems like something I would ask her to do)

I apologized profusely and let her know that it was an oversight on my part and, for whatever reason, the cat sitting weekend didn’t make it onto my calendar or stick in my brain — perhaps because it felt tentative to me or perhaps because I was distracted by the giant flame pit of my personal life. And I went on to say that, even if it had made it into my calendar, we’d still find ourselves in this situation because I definitely want to go see Vivian that weekend and that’s the weekend that works for both my work schedule and Vivian’s — so Donna and I would be out our regular cat sitters regardless.

I told Donna that the main difference would be how I would have handled it which would have been to acknowledge Donna’s travel weekend and let Donna know immediately instead of two weeks after Vivian and I made our own plans (because I wouldn’t have forgotten). I apologized again and also reassured Donna that she and I still have plenty of lead time since our trips aren’t until the fall and I was confident we could find someone else or secure a spot to board our cats.

Donna wrote me back and said that she found my response both upsetting and disturbing. She said it was disturbing that we had different ideas of how firm these cat-sitting plans are. She said that it was deeply upsetting to her that I would even consider outright canceling in scenario where our plans were in fact firm and Vivian’s invitation came up because “plans are plans” and plans should only be cancelled if there was an emergency. She said further that she’s very concerned because now she has no one to take care of her cat, she has never boarded her cat before and doesn’t know how the cat would tolerate that, and the possibility of putting her cat in an unfamiliar environment gives her a lot of anxiety. She said that now, because of all this, she may not be able to go on her trip to see her dearest friends.

Donna asked me if I would consider changing my travel plans/re-booking my flight to coincide with her travel plans.

This felt excessive to me and I told her no (aside from the logistical nightmare that would be given the world of discount airfare). I told her I would be happy to help her find another cat sitter (especially seeing as she and I are in the same boat) or, if it came to it and she ended up needing to board her cat and there was some conflict where she and I were vying for the same booking, I would gladly cede it to her. I also said that it felt to me like emotions were running pretty high and I’d like to discuss her concerns more fully, but maybe at another time.

She didn’t really address these options and instead wanted me to a) define what “confirmation” is for me and explain why what we did wasn’t confirmation so we avoid an incident like this in the future and b) tell her as soon as I nail down my travel plans so that maybe we can work out something where I can take care of her cat half the time or before or after my trip if my trip is shorter than hers. I replied that follow-up helps me with confirmation and that I would get back to her on my travel plans.

Things are palpably hostile between us now, which sucks because I do consider her a very close friend and we have many mutual friends. Here’s the thing, Captain. When I think about “avoiding an incident like this in the future,” I think that I don’t want there to be a future cat sitting exchange anymore and I want to avoid this happening again by never doing this again. I don’t know why, I just feel suddenly done and I’d rather hire a sitter through the internet for my cat. I feel really bad about all of this. She seems more outraged than hurt and I feel myself shutting down about it. When I stretch and think about this, I could see why she might be mad that I totally spaced her travel plans.

And, yet, I am also out of fucks to give about it. Am I a jerk?

I think, for me, inquiring my about my availability isn’t quite the same as making plans, especially with no follow up. But even if it was, on my end, my assumption for her has always been that she is doing these cat-sits as a favor to me, free of charge, and always at our mutual convenience. So I get this wonderful service for free that some people have to pay for. I suppose I never thought these were ever 100% set-in-stone plans until we started approaching the window of time where it would be near impossible to find other accommodations because I don’t view Donna as beholden to me or my cat to provide a free service for us if it doesn’t 500% work for her.

And in the two weeks or so leading up to our departures, Donna and I have a little routine where we confirm that we each have one another’s house keys, have a travel itinerary, and so on. So even in a world where I completely blew it and stayed utterly silent about my own trip and she never once spoke of her trip ever again aside from that one text message, the situation would still be salvageable two weeks out — one way or another (and yes perhaps outrage would be in order at that point).

But we aren’t in that situation and if the current situation were reversed and more than two months before my trip, Donna forgot about my travel plans and spontaneously decided to take a trip to see her Vivian equivalent, I would tell her to go have fun and I would find another cat sitter. I get that she’s mad, but I guess it’s not that big of a deal to me. Annoying and inconsiderate of me, yes. “Disturbing” and deeply “upsetting” and “anxiety” provoking and unable to “let this go”? I feel almost manipulated by the intensity of those feelings.

I figure that when you have a dependent of any kind, you always have a plan B and that’s part of your plan A. For example, my mom hated hiring random sitters and always preferred to leave me with people she knew. But occasionally, a random sitter had to be hired because someone flaked/spaced/had a sudden conflict/etc. I just find Donna’s stance that there’s “no one else” not only implausible, but not very wise planning since I could just spontaneously combust one day and no longer be available to her and her cat anymore. Donna isn’t the only person who I could think of to call on to care for my cat.

As I said, things are very hostile. Donna is stonewalling me now. What do I actually owe Donna at this point? Is there more I should do? Scripts I should say?Why do I feel so “done” and over this when she’s clearly still very upset? Am I justified in no longer wanting to exchange cat-care with her? I am getting the strong vibe that this is a friendship-ending or friendship-permanently-altering thing that I have done…yet she still seems to want me to take care of her cat.

A Tail of Two Kitties

Hi Tail of Two Kitties,

The entire theme of this letter is “sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money.”

It’s inconvenient and annoying for Donna to have to find an alternate pet-sitting or boarding service, and I can understand being anxious about putting the cat in an unfamiliar situation or letting a stranger into her home, but she has months to figure it out. Schedules change! People sometimes have emergencies! You’re right to wonder, “well, what would you do if I couldn’t do it because something came up at the last minute?”

You’ve apologized for the scheduling mixup, you’ve done what you can to try to mitigate it, and you’re not gonna cancel your vacation because your friend doesn’t want to Google “how do I find a reliable pet sitter” or ask other people with cats what they do. So I’m not sure what you else you can really do from here. It’s shitty to plan on something and have it fall through, but if a good friend makes an honest mistake and does what they can to apologize and mitigate it, what is there to do except move forward as best you can? If this isn’t an ongoing sore spot in your relationship (where you’ve cancelled or gotten mixed up about plans a lot of times), then I agree that her reaction here is disproportionate.

In your shoes I’d be like “It’s been so great that we could trade cat-sitting all this time, but it seems like it causes way too much strife in our friendship when there’s a problem, so it’s clearly time to revisit whether we do this at all. I can’t commit to a schedule the way a professional sitter or vet that offers boarding can, and I know I’d rather just pay someone to sit for my cat than fight about it with you ever again. I hope you find something that works, if I come across something I’ll let you know, in the meantime here are your keys back, and let’s just hang out without worrying about this if we can.”

Then let her make the next moves. IF you come across a great cat-sitting solution share it with her, BUT ALSO do not take responsibility for finding a solution for her. Then wait and see if anything remains of the friendship. Probably nothing? But maybe something does with some time? I can’t tell you, it’s pretty much up to Donna.

I just had to let our regular cat sitter Miss Diane know that Beadie died when she texted me to see if we needed her at all this summer. She was so sad (and then I was so sad all over again) but I can highly recommend her services. For $20/day, she fed, petted, played with, loved up on and brushed the Bead for an hour each day, scooped the litter box, collected our mail, watered our plants, and sent regular photos/text updates. (Usually the updates were “She hissed at me the whole time but also followed me around until I brushed her”). I found her through an opera singer friend who goes out of town for long periods for gigs and didn’t want to saddle her roommates with cat care, and she is wonderful. Plenty of friends have helped me out with Beadie over the years, but after hiring Miss Diane I came home to a sleek, happy, and spoiled buddy instead of the world’s most pitiful and lonely creature. Chicago people, email me if you need her info (she does not have a website I can link to). Letter Writer, good luck finding someone who can do that for you!



396 thoughts on “#1119: “I can’t trade cat-sitting services with a friend this fall. Is this a friendship ender?”

  1. Hi OP – I’m sorry you’re in this situation, it sounds frustrating and hurtful.

    To me, it sounds like Donna had some unrealistic expectations to begin with: that when she inquired about your availability you would know intuitively what her intention was. And those unrealistic expectations have continued: that her inconvenience should be more important to you than your plans, and that her emotions about her inconvenience should be more important than anything else in your life.

    It seems like Donna, not you, is the one willing to torpedo your friendship over a simple miscommunication and disappointment. That’s what stands out to me here.

    I don’t think you’re the one being a jerk for feeling D-O-N-E done.

    1. I think that Donna was as surprised at the text of the conversation as the letter writer was. I would bet a lot that Donna thought of the conversation as happening like this: “Will you watch my cats from X to Y?” “Yes, I most certainly will. I am putting it on my calendar right now.” I think part of the anger of the whole interaction is Donna looking at the texts and realizing that, oops, she wasn’t clear and the letter writer didn’t actually commit to anything. Now she has to convince them that they did commit.

  2. So…you said you were possibly free and what she heard was you signing an oath in blood of fealty to her cat whereby the cat is now your number one priority in life? Good luck with finding a new cat buddy Donna!

        1. Uh oh, sending a message might clearly turn out to be perilous.

          Donna: “Are you free during [time]?” (Means: “Do you solemnly swear on your blood and on your mother’s soul that you will sacrifice everything in the service of my feline companion?”)
          LW: “Yes, look like I am, at the moment.” (Means: “Yes, I fully promise to follow the command of my feline master/mistress.”)

          1. Perhaps Donna IS a cat? I mean, that would explain the expectation that the LW organizes her life around Donna’s (cat’s) needs?

            I’m the subject/servant of two beloved cats myself – they are lovely, and they are most definitely the center of their respective universes.

          2. TheAngryGuppy, that would indeed explain this; cats DO tend to take offense if they do not get to spend time with their favourite humans. Since we volunteer in the local animal rescue organization three rescue cats have found their way to our house (as our pets) and to our hearts (or, actually, the other way around) – and then I have my first cat who is not a rescue. They are all VERY fond of us humans and require attention of their chosen two legged family members – and if they do not get it they react: our biggest tom and a very ferocious hunter poops to the foyer and one of our female cats begins a continous vailing noise. Luckily, they are friends with multiple people in our friend circle and are fine in their care if fed and checked on daily.

  3. I almost wonder if there have been times where Donna has cancelled plans because she committed to watching your cat, and that’s why she is so outraged that you are not willing to do the same. I’ve inadvertently fallen into this trap of overextending myself for friends and then feeling very hurt that they wouldn’t do so for me, when really it was on me for giving more than I actually wanted to or was ever even remotely expected to.

    Regardless, Captain’s advice is great, and good for you for knowing your boundaries around this issue.

    1. This is a good take and I think you’re probably on to something here. Whatever is happening in Donna’s mind, it’s clearly deeper than the LW letting Donna know three months out that she can’t cat-sit.

    2. Great point… and another possibility I wonder about is that Donna’s had a history of being let down by people in the past and this just felt like “OH NO NOT AGAIN THIS IS THE LAST STRAW” to the point where she lost all perspective?

      There was a fantastic line in one of CA’s posts a while back about how it’s not a good idea to expect friends or acquaintances to make up for the failures of the previous occupants of those posts in your life. I do wonder if maybe that’s what Donna’s doing.

      1. This was my first guess. One-offs seem suspiciously like patterns when other people have done the same thing to you before.

        Anna’s guess, which I hadn’t thought of but should’ve, is also good.

      2. There was a fantastic line in one of CA’s posts a while back about how it’s not a good idea to expect friends or acquaintances to make up for the failures of the previous occupants of those posts in your life.


    3. Never bet more than you’re willing to lose, even in close friendships and romantic relationships.

    4. These comments makes sense to me – there is definitely an imbalanced feeling of obligation.

      As I read through the letter, it made me think of family members who start expecting something from me, when I viewed that action as a favour. What I once thought was a helpful thing which came from my heart, has now been rendered into an obligation. Which makes me want to stop that thing, and I wonder if that is perhaps why the LW wants to stop the arrangement completely. If I were the LW, I would now feel that if I cat-sat less often than Donna then she would be viewing that as an advantage over me, and that I would owe her, and… it all feels weird and best avoided to me.

      I have pets, and I would gladly board them although thankfully I have generous family (my one family member loves staying at my place because of the garden – a win for both of us!). Although I admit to loving one friend’s pet and have forced them into agreeing that I get to pet-sit whenever needed (I joke (hopefully obviously). I did make them promise, but they know it’s not enforceable, and it’s only because I really enjoy their pet and wanted to make the point that they can leave their pet for extended periods without guilt). I always worry about someone feeling obligated to do something for me (a legacy from my family), and it’s possible I go to added lengths trying to ensure that I don’t do the same.

      1. This makes sense to me. I have family like this, where you do a favor once and it is set in stone as your duty for all of eternity. Also, I had employers like this when I was a nanny while at university. The employer/nanny relationship can be a minefield of inappropriate expectations and crossed boundaries (depending on the folks involved, of course). Do something that is not on the list of duties and you could be saddled with it for forever. If there is an exchange of favors, that often makes it worse. OP, it sounds like you and your friend may have strayed into similar territory, that of “almost like one of the family.” Whenever I hear that phrase, I cringe. So far, it has always been code for “high expectations, few boundaries.”
        Maybe a cooling off of the friendship would be a healthy thing, allowing you to assert some boundaries with your friend.

        OP, I hope you have a good trip, and that you find a good pet sitter for your kitty.

        1. This kind of dynamic is why I don’t bake for the break room until I’ve been at the job long enough to feel that out. One time as “that girl who brought us cookies last weekend, so where are our cookies THIS weekend” was enough.

          1. Wow, that is an awful dynamic that would definitely result in no cookies ever again! I’m so grateful whenever anyone brings break room snacks and it’s definitely always a bonus! (And I do make sure to bring stuff in myself now and then so I’m not always mooching).

          2. Definitely! Home baked goodies should be appreciated as treasured gifts, not demanded by jerkasses! A strict “no baking for entitled jerks” policy seems like a good idea to me. I shall never be known as The Cookie Girl ever again!

            That goes for bringing coffee as well. After *one* coffee run, two of my coworkers started calling me That Starbucks Girl (same dudes that called me Cookie Girl). One dude even left me a note about his coffee preferences, so I could, “get it right next time.”

            Ummmm…. NOPE!

          3. I so feel this comment. For the first few years at my current job I was the resident baker – I like baking and had the time and it made me happy to do it for people (like for birthdays or holidays or whatever). Flash forward five years, twice the staff, and three promotions later and I am STILL getting the “but whyyyyyyyyyy can’t you make the (insert preferred goodie here) like you used tooooooooo?” Like, I work an insane amount of hours and travel way more and I’m caring for my sick brother and there are LITERALLY TWICE AS MANY OF YOU AS THERE USED TO BE. Shock and surprise I DON’T HAVE TIME ANYMORE. I started out trying to be kind and a bit apologetic about not really having the time or bandwidth to make goodies for everyone all the time. I basically have to just ignore people now because I have planted my roots in the field of no fucks given. Find a bakery already!

          4. Wow, absolutely, I completely agree that home baked goodies should not be taken for granted – in fact, no favour ever should!

            I have now volunteered in a local rescue organization for almost ten years and still, after all this time and after baking for their buffets for tens of times they still politely ask every time if I could do it and offer to compensate even though I have never taken the offer. It feels really good to not be taken for granted and it is definetely part of the reason why I happily keep baking for them and trying new vegan recipies despite not being vegan myself. Being polite and considerate clearly pays off in many ways.

          5. I always assumed this type of behavior was a power play vs. jerkiness. “Not this week! Maybe next week.”, “Nope. What did you bring?”, “Oh you liked them. Awesome!” were responses depending on the amount of power I wanted to project back.

          6. Last time a guy at work put on a sad face and complained that Coworker never brings in cakes anymore, I channeled my inner motivational poster and told him to “be the change you wish to see in the world”.

            He didn’t follow my suggestion, but he didn’t complain again, either.

        2. This is why i don’t offer to fix anyone’s computer anymore. They then seem to feel that I’m responsible for it forever and I get late night calls and rants about Microsoft.

          My boundary is that I will take a look if we are at lunch or otherwise together anyway, but I will not take it home to work on it or go to your home unless you pay me.

          Also you have to let me talk about what I am doing with it and you have to actively listen. (I’m a 2nd generation computer nerd and the proud mother of the 3rd generation.) I charge extra if you don’t look interested.

    5. I bet that Donna 100% would have moved her trip if LW had originally said they were not available that weekend, but now she can’t and that is why she is so unreasonably pissed. Completely bonkers response, of course, but she probably would have planned around this ~catastrophic calamity!~ if she had only known LW wasn’t going to be around.

      1. I was thinking the same thing – she feels she planned around LW’s catsitting availability and is now stuck. She’s doing a remarkably poor job of SAYING that, though.

        1. OH MY GOD THAT’S IT! I think that’s where her little extra kick of emotional intensity is coming from—some sort of decision process about when she would leave. Maybe she even **considered double-checking** with LW about cat sitting but felt too shy, and now she’s blaming herself. OBVIOUSLY all speculation but it feels like there’s some missing piece of this emotional puzzle!!

    6. These are all great points to consider! If this behavior is out of character, and if she is a good friend of yours, it might be worth digging a little deeper into this outburst.

      1. This is a classic Ask a Manager strategy! If someone is acting irrationally/out of character/outside of established norms, it’s worth asking them what’s going on in an open-ended way, because you can be surprised by what comes out if you stop responding and just listen.

        It sounds like the LW has done a lot of responding in this particular situation. A lot of proposing solutions, attempts at damage control. (Not a criticism, because that’s a very understandable response and probably exactly what I’d do!) LW, even if you ultimately want to back away from this friendship, you might be able to get Donna to deescalate a bit (and get her off your back) by lending a nonjudgmental ear one more time. Try something like, “I can see you’re still very upset with me about this, and while I am truly sorry for inconveniencing you, I honestly wasn’t expecting that you’d feel so strongly about it. Can you give me some insight?”

    7. Good point. You could try asking her that as that would hopefully move it past the guilt trips into reviewing expectations and managing times when both are not available at the same time

    8. Anna, that is a very good point. I wonder if Donna has cancelled her plans but never told LW about it.

      1. I would bet (small amounts of) money on it. And she never mentioned it either. Or she thought she did, while actually saying something very vague.

    9. Yeah, I bet she has done that. Also I bet she didn’t make her current travel plans until after she had (she thought) confirmed with LW that LW was going to petsit.

      She sounds anxious and like there’s other stuff going on – maybe she has previously overextended herself catsitting when it was actually super inconvenient or difficult for her to do so, maybe the LW had (she feels) flaked out on her in some other way previously, maybe she’s got other overwhelming stuff going on in her life, maybe her cat is old or sickly or difficult and she’s unusually anxious about the cat.

      Her reaction seems disproportionate but I do have some sympathy for her. For whatever reason, she sounds super stressed out.

    10. Yeah, I may have also been annoyed/pissed if i were Donna. But instead of lashing out at LW I’d probably stew a bit and then tell myself, “Maybe I won’t bend over backwards for her cat next time.”

      1. Yeah, and I would have taken it as a sign to find a new catsitter myself, too.

        I agree with the LW that they should probably not catsit for each other in the future. They have too different ideas of what that means, and it’s causing too much hurt between them.

        I would tell her that I am really sorry about the mistake and that it was an honest misunderstanding and I really didn’t intend to leave her hanging or to mislead her, but that I won’t be able to take care of her cat. And that it looks like we have different approaches to petsitting so let’s both find some alternative petsitters and agree that sitting for each other doesn’t work as well as we had hoped/as it used it/as a professional/etc, and that I don’t want to lose a friend over this (assuming that’s still true).

    11. Yeah, I do that too – overstretch myself and then feel shoddy when my friends don’t seem to reciprocate. It’s taken me years to figure out people can’t actually read my mind, and I can’t read theirs, and so maybe I should take the pressure off myself. Another thing: sometimes my friends don’t really want me to do a thing for them, or don’t need me jumping in to save the day because they have their own thing behind the scenes and would have asked me if they wanted me to do the thing. It’s a trap alright, wherein I kept doing “favours” that weren’t favours at all, and then got resentful when they did not seem to reciprocate.

      Having said that, even if this is a case of two friendship styles clashing, it’s not up to the LW to smooth things out with Donna, or to explain to her, over and over again, that the problem is solvable. Whatever is going on in Donna’s life, the LW does not know and cannot help with. Maybe the cat situation was the proverbial final straw, or it was Donna trying to prove her needs go above everyone else’s. To the LW, it looks the same, and until Donna can meet them halfway, they cannot do anything about it.

      One of the most difficult things I have learned is that no matter how much it hurts and how good my intentions may be, my friends cannot read my mind and unfuck my shit for me. I need to adjust my own expectations, and I only started to do that after my friends pushed back against some of my own bs. LW, Donna’s feelings are not your responsibility – don’t take that on.

      1. GG, it is truly great that you have discovered this trait in yourself. I was also brought up in an atmosphere of doing favours to others in the most passive aggressive way which is humanly possible and letting it go and really learning to discuss with others of the RULES of doing favours like running a role playing game, arranging board game events etc. have proved to be really good skills.

        It might be more common for people like me who have spent their early years being considered female by people brining the up to be conditioned to try to please and serve others, even when it hurts themselves. Obviously, not we nor LW really know if this is the case in Donna’s case, but sometimes people return to familiar habits during rough times, even though they are not that beneficial.

        I very much hope that Donna would reflect on her behaviour just like GG.

        GG, do you remember what your friends said or did to make you realize your behavioural pattern?

        Congratulations on being able to admit them and change! That is truly great!

    12. yes, I was also wondering if this is about more than the cat. Maybe there’s some insecurity in the relationship here (or relationships in general) that’s making her overreact. I also think there’s a healthy dose of her trying to make a big stink out of it to manipulate LW into caving and watching the cat.

    13. Could be, or it just could be that Donna has a massive sense of entitlement. The over the top scenery-chewing reaction and then trying to insist that LW cancel and change her plans suggests the latter.

    14. Good point. However because LW didn’t mention it, I assume that if Donna had done so, she didn’t tell LW about it. In which case, it’s certainly not LW’s problem to manage.

  4. OP, I think you have been 100% reasonable on this. Donna is being a jerk about things. The advice given is great and my one of my personal mottos.

  5. I have nothing useful to add here but I wanted to say, LW, I love your sign-off and it made me smile, so thank you!

  6. I absolutely think it’s reasonable to feel done with all of this; Donna’s response is fairly baffling.

    My main takeaway though, is… you share many mutual friends. Can she not just ask one of them?!

    1. I had the same thought about the mutual friends. Unless it’s an online chat group or they are scattered geographically, couldn’t she ask another friend to watch the cat? Why does Donna seem to think LW is literally the only person who can do that?

      1. Unless the cat virulently hates everyone else Donna knows, which I feel like the LW would have mentioned?

        1. In which case, you hire a professional who knows how to deal with universe-hating cats.

      2. I wondered this as well but then wondered if Donna had alienated them already. Maybe she’s zeroed in on LW as someone she feels will meet her unreasonable demands. Change airline flights for cat sitting? Unbelievable. And it’s worrisome that LW apologizes too much when she by rights ought to be angry at the boundary squashing. Makes me wonder if this is a dynamic that’s been going on awhile.

  7. If she has otherwise been a normal friend with proportionate responses, I would wonder if something else was going on in her life. Like, she feels out of control in some important area but taking care of her cat was an area she DID have under control and now she doesn’t, and it’s caused a freakout. How out of character is this for her?

    How much you try and delve into that possibility depends entirely on how good and close the friendship has been so far. With most people I wouldn’t bother, with a few I would – a freakout like this would tell me Person was not doing okay and I should check on on them (bit hard when she’s stonewalling you though).

    If it is a misdirected freakout, I think even if the friendship seems to be over, she might come back in 6 months and say “I’m sorry, my life exploded and I couldn’t see straight” or whatever. But that’s just a possibility I foresee, not advice that you should chase her or anything.

    1. I also wonder if maybe Donna booked her flight earlier that day, or the previous day, and it was just really bad timing for the refusal? But yeah, otherwise it seems like there is something else going on.

      I do wonder, if people are ‘good friends’ and this sort of thing can’t be talked about in a reasonable way, then how strong was the friendship? Which is fine, because some friends are long-term friendships without being very deep, and they can’t withstand these sorts of problems. Yet I still find it odd.

  8. I’m very sorry to hear about your cat Captain. It’s hard to find a cat that gives such good cuddles.

    1. Captain, I loved the photos and stories about your cat! I am so sorry that she’s no longer with you .

  9. It sounds like Donna is already past the point of being reasoned with here but what would she do if you were hit by a bus/had a close relative die/had any other kind of emergency after agreeing to cat-sit?

    1. Complain that the LW should rouse herself from her hospital bed or reschedule the funeral, probably.

  10. While I wouldn’t end a friendship (or even pick a fight) over this, I do see some of myself in Donna. I also do not deal well with a sudden change in plans and I sometimes treat minor disappointments as major catastrophes, especially when I’m already stressed about other things. However, even with a perspective that is probably more sympathetic to Donna’s than I suspect most will be, it’s clear she’s being ridiculous. She has months to make other arrangements. I think the most upset someone can reasonably under these circumstances is a mild, “Oh, it’s a bummer than we can’t use each other as cat sitters this time.”

    If she doesn’t have a history of blowing things out of proportion, then this might be a sign that something else is going on. That’s not the LW’s problem, and given the state of the relationship between LW and Donna now, it doesn’t sound like LW is very interested in finding out what that might be (or would necessarily be the best person to do so). That’s okay. But knowing that someone’s shitty behavior towards you wasn’t really about you can sometimes make it easier to forgive them down the line—with or without an apology.

    1. I also feel a bit of a need to defend Donna’s perspective here, even though I totally agree that she blew things out of proportion and LW is mostly in the right. I am someone who gets irrationally upset when people cancel plans/flake out on me. I’m seeing comments arguing that LW never commit to catsit that weekend on the basis of saying they “should be free”, which while that may be technically true feels like a very literal and bad-faith interpretation. As a planner, “Should be able to do X” is a really frustrating response, because it’s not actionable on my part. If I ask you to do X, the possible answers are 1. “No” — my response is to make other plans; 2. “I don’t know” — my response is to ask when you will know, so I can proactively check back then, or 3. “yes” — my response is to assume X is happening unless you proactively tell me the plans have changed.

      “Should be able to” is frustrating because it’s in the middle ground between 2) and 3). I find that in almost all cases, people mean it to be 3), so that treating it as 2) and hounding for a confirmation feels overbearing and uptight. In a case where you are relying on a favor it is safer to assume 2), but given that LW and Donna are good friends who have a history of doing this for each other, I really think it’s a stretch to imply Donna should have taken LWs response as anything other than “probably yes, I will let you know if that changes.” This is why I think Donna is harping on the “what does a commitment mean to you” line of arguing.

      So, if LW truly just forgot about it and neglected to inform me of her plans in a timely manner, I would be pissed but would understand that everyone makes mistakes. I get the sense, though, that LW was also implying, either directly or indirectly, that they never really “commit” so it’s also sort of Donna’s fault. That would definitely make me angry because it would feel like LW was trying shift the blame to me instead of owning their mistake. That’s the part I can see making me really upset and defensive, because yes, I technically should have pushed for a clearer confirmation, but also that’s kind of bullshit.

      THAT SAID, I also think I would be mature enough to realize that I was being petty, that I have a tendency to blow things out of proportion, and that it’s really just a minor miscommunication. LW is clearly a good friend to Donna, and sometimes even good friends do things that make us mad!

      1. I totally see where you’re coming from, but to me “Are you free X weekend” and “I should be available” is an inquiry, not an agreement. Even with their history, “I should be” isn’t a hard “yes” and it’s incumbent upon the person asking to follow up when their plans are set, even if they have a history of helping each other. I have a cat that needs a lot of care and I would never, ever assume “I should be available” as “yes.” Plus I have professional backup in case friends aren’t available.

        I think ultimately, there is a difference in communication, as well as assumptions made on both sides. And it sounds like Donna has a lot of other stuff going on. I’ve lost my shit over trivial things when I’m having a rough time and it’s cost me friends. I hope both of them can sort it out and keep the friendship going.

        1. Totally agree. I had a friend ask me four months in advance if I was free to go to a broadcast of a Met opera at our local movie theater and I said, “I should be” meaning “Who knows, it’s four months from now but my schedule is not very busy so probably? Unless something else comes up?” Three-and-a-half months later I was informed that I was going to the movie the following week because of the “plan” we had made. Which was fine — I actually was available and I like opera. But it taught me a lesson about what “should be” means to that particular friend, so I answer more clearly now.

          1. I think that even if someone does clearly say yes, you should still follow up for confirmation if the thing they said yes to is really far in the future. Totally makes sense that you didn’t remember agreeing to a Wednesday night three and a half months in the future. I signed myself and my boyfriend up for a couple’s cooking class but they’re so popular I had to choose a date in like April even though I was looking in December. I wasn’t letting down a friend, but I wound up wasting the money since it was so far in advance I forgot when it was.

          2. OY. I would definitely have assumed that the proper response to a “should be free” would be “follow up when it’s time to spend money”

      2. That’s a good point, if the LW said something to Donna about how they never actually committed, mahbe that’s what’s making her so upset? Definitely agree her response is way out of proportion though.

        I’ve had a friend who would often deliberately avoid using committing language when we were talking about doing things, so if they flaked later they could play the “well I never actually committed” card and therefore I couldn’t be upset or annoyed that thing wasn’t happening. Especially frustrating because my style is like you and Tea Rocket, I like to make set plans and don’t like when they’re suddenly changed.

        1. Yeah, I can imagine any variation of ‘oh, that doesn’t count as an agreement – you were imagining things’ would be pretty infuriating, and the fact that the LW didn’t actually tell Donna about her change of plans, but left it to be discovered by accident, would be kind of frightening.

          From Donna’s point of view, she verbally asked if the LW could catsit, then confirmed the details by text, and LW said yes, so she went ahead and made her plans, then discovered entirely by accident that LW had entirely flaked out on the whole thing. Which, frankly, from everything she said in the letter, she did. I see some people saying what is described doesn’t sound like a commitment, but I probably would have read it that way, as would most people I know.

          Which is not a crime, it happens, it’s an accident, miscommunications happen, but to me if a friend did that to me about something I was anxious about, then brushed it off or laughed it off or blamed me, well, I probably would be angry at them.

        2. Someone who made a pattern of that would deserve a big fat question mark in my book, but we have no reason to believe that is the case here.

      3. I hear you on “should be”, but assuming that the letter is current, then several weeks ago (So May), Donna asked if the LW was available sometime in early fall (so…September?). LW says “should be”, probably meaning 3.

        LW then gets invited to this weekend with a friend and ends up letting Donna know, but not in context of the cat-sitting. While it sucks that LW forgot, Donna still has time to plan a sitter.

        Donna could’ve addressed the fact that LW forgot and fixed that (personally, I hate making plans that rely on favors more than a month in advance because too much can change) instead of accusing the LW of breaking her word.

      4. I hear you, but “should be able to” =/= “yes, I can.” Period.

        I personally say, “I should be able to, but let me get back to you after I check my calendar,” because I have had a Donna take a “should” as a “yes.” If I meant “yes,” I would have said it.

        The problem here, in my opinion, is that the LW did not commit and Donna thinks that the LW did commit. From an outsider’s perspective, it is clear to me that it was a miscommunication. Those happen. Donna clearly interpreted the “should” as a “yes” rather than the “maybe” the LW meant.

        What the actual problem is in this case, however, is Donna’s unacceptable, disproportionate response. At some point, she needs to ask herself, what is her goal here? And what is more important – making the LW feel bad or maintaining the friendship?

        1. Absolutely agree. “Should be” to me means “I think so, so here’s a tentative yes; but wait until I confirm for sure before this is set in stone”. I’ve gotten in the habit of similarly deferring to my calendar in the moment so that I can both check my calendar, and check my gut to see if it’s something I really want to / can do.

          But I also agree that this was just a case of miscommunication, and Donna’s response is really unacceptable. Even if LW is flaky about plans in general, even if they let Donna know in the “right way” (it’s a trap, there is no perfect right way), it’s entirely not cool for Donna to turn this one incident into a federal case. Especially since Donna still has 3 WHOLE MONTHS to arrange alternate pet care options.

          I once had a client that I had to tell that I would no longer be able to work on their project. The project owner was understandably upset, but after several emails they made it clear that it was more important for them to be angry at me than for us to find an acceptable path forward; no many how many alternate options I gave them for the project (including staying on-board as a project manager while my friend did the development work), they kept focusing on how “unfair” I was being.

          The moral of that story is: sometimes people just want to be angry, so if they’re still hashing out all of the wrongs you’ve committed even after you’ve apologized several times, that tells you that it’s more important to them to be filled with righteous rage than to resolve the conflict. Donna really strikes me as that type (at least, in this situation).

          LW, there’s a lot you can do to build bridges and repair the friendship (as mentioned by the many comments above), but first take a good hard look at things and decide if you WANT to repair this friendship. It seems like Donna is giving you a pretty easy way to exit the friendship. At the very least, wait until things cool down and Donna reaches out… then you can decide if this is worth it to you or not

          1. Yeah. I am one of those people who gets really frustrated over flakiness and bailing and forgetting plans. But I think Donna is not being very reasonable especially if this is NOT a pattern here. Everyone occasionally forgets or has to bail. It happens. It’s when it becomes a pattern that it’s annoying. This just seems like such an obvious legit slip of the mind. Also, if “should be” is what was was said, I would definitely confirm a second time before making solid plans/arrangements. It’s also like…. yes, this is frustrating. But a friendship ender over one mistake, without a lot more backstory, does seem disproportionate – even if it was LW’s screwup and we take “should be” as confirmation, I really really think we should allow our friends to be imperfect in this way. For me to be angry for ages/possibly end a friendship over one screwup, the thing done would have to be far more massive than this – intentional, for one thing.

          2. I completely agree. Even if Donna had only had 2 days to arrange alternative pet care, her emotional manipulation and turning it into a “federal case” (great way to put it!) makes what she is doing wrong. Then to realize she actually has MONTHS to figure it out – even more unacceptable. (Being upset is fine – I would be too!)

            You are right – sometimes people just want to be angry so there is no way to appease them.

            I have had patients like your client. They want to be mad more than they want to fix things or get better.

            One lady was mad at me for the diagnosis codes used (they were the ones she gave me, btw). She got into a yelling match with me because I dared to link her chronic illness with her current cold (her condition depresses the immune system, so she is more likely to get sick than other people – which is all I said). I removed the codes for her chronic illness from her ledger to appease her (but not from her chart – that is not ethical and she had no right to ask it of me), but she was still mad at her next appointment and got into another yelling match. At the end I told her, “well, it looks like there is no way to resolve this miscommunication. I can give you 3 other doc’s information right now or I can email it to you.” She yelled she didn’t want it and stomped out without paying (in front of 3 other patients and my office manager). I considered her self-released and moved on.

            This lady came back 3 weeks later for an appointment we canceled since she had self-released (aka she discharged herself because that is what it means when you scream at your doctor and leave without paying). And guess what? Another fight. She ended up throwing something at the wall and leaving. If she ever comes back, we will call the cops and press assault charges.

            I had tried to reason with her and explain things during the first 2 times, but she kept wanting to rehash our original argument where she was wrong. (It’s ok that she was wrong – she’s not a doctor and has no way of knowing all of our policies and procedures. What was wrong is how she acted and continued to argue with me.) I felt like she was trying to force an apology out of me, which was never going to come – as a doctor, I cannot apologize because that can be used as evidence against me if she decided to pursue a malpractice case (not to mention, I actually didn’t do anything wrong). So I saw her behavior as the giant, waving red flag that it was and did what I needed to get her out of my practice.

            That is how I see Donna’s behavior. A giant red flag. She has given you a gift, LW – a very easy exit to this friendship.

          3. I would say here that even once you’ve apologized, sometimes people need time to be angry and then cool off. It sounds like in the LW’s case that doesn’t apply, but I know it took me a while to get that someone could still be angry at me and not ready to move on even if I had just apologized profusely and they had forgiven me/ accepted the apology. It’s trickier with not in person interactions, but sometimes it’s space and time that’s needed. And sometimes they just can’t let it go, but some space still increases the chances of them getting over it.

        2. @rhythla – I personally say, “I should be able to, but let me get back to you after I check my calendar,” because I have had a Donna take a “should” as a “yes.” If I meant “yes,” I would have said it.

          I also add the “let me check and get back to you” part because in many ways I am an anxious Donna-type who knows that, were I in her position, I’d want to know explicitly whose court the ball was in. And then I’d check and get back to my friend pronto. If a friend just said “I should be able to,” I would A. know better than to interpret that as a hard yes, but B. spend the next few days in an anxious stew of “Are… they going to get back to me? Are they expecting me to ask again? How soon is too soon to ask? I don’t want to be a nag! Or am I just silly and that was a yes…?”

          Actually, if I were Donna, I’d probably not let the converastion end on them saying “I should be able to.” I’d probably answer with, “OK, check your calendar and let me know for sure, OK?” which explicitly puts the ball in their court and saves me some of the uncertainty. I’d still do the “I haven’t heard from them yet, should I be worried? Did they forget? Is it too soon to follow up?” anxiety dance, but I’d deal with it somehow. (Probably by following up a week later, max.) Because it’s my (Donna’s) anxiety dance; it’s not their (LW’s) responsibility to manage.

          1. Exactly! Like you, I want to know whose court the ball is in. And when I say, “let me check,” that means it’s in my court. My policy is to let them know a definitive answer in the next couple of days (sooner if it is more time sensitive).

            When I am on the other side of a “should be able to, let me check,” and I have not heard from the other person for a few days, I will touch base casually. I find that most people just forget and are happy for the reminder!

            At that point, if they still give me a non-definitive answer, I follow the general CA advice – if it’s not an enthusiastic yes, then it is a “no” and I plan accordingly.

          2. The fact that Donna took “I should be able to” as an answer makes me wonder just how firm HER plans were. Her plans may have solidified later and the problem is that she didn’t confirm. As someone said up thread, (I paraphrase) she may have not been her best self in this and is acting defensively for that reason.

      5. I, too, like to plan and am irritated when people cancel plans on me, especially at the last minute. Because of that, I’ve adapted my own behavior to work in my favor instead of heightening my anxiety. If something needs a firm commitment, I’ll follow up on any vague answers to get a definitive statement (or clarify the fact that the person is unable to definitively commit, which is a “no” for things that actually need a commitment right then, or a “check back later” for things that can wait). Some people have a really hard time saying “no” even to things they really don’t like, and that kind of vague language can be used as a soft no, so as a planner, I’ve found it really helpful for myself to figure out exactly what’s going on instead of trying to guess or assuming the wrong thing.

        Some people still bail on definitive, clear plans often, and a much larger subset are more likely to bail if things are planned weeks or months out by unlikely to bail on something planned less than a week out. That’s just how they work, for whatever reason(s), and I adapt to that by not making plans, or not making long-term plans, with those people. They become spontaneous hangout people for the first group, or people with whom I don’t plan time more than a few days in advance for the second. They’re definitely not people on whom I rely for something like cat-sitting, though they might be people on whom I rely if I crash my bike and need somebody to drive me to the ER right now.

        As time goes by, I see it less as an issue of better/worse, and more as a matter of adapting my own expectations and behavior in order to not be anxious and disappointed. It helps me avoid getting angry at people being noncommittal or worrying about whom to blame, which I find just tends to make me unhappy, while framing it as a problem of how to behave and what to expect to make things work best for me on the basis of my own behavior, which is all I can control, makes me much happier AND is more likely to get me the particular outcomes I want (like someone taking care of my cat on a given weekend).

      6. You say that you recognize “should be” is not an actionable response, but then say LW is the one shirking blame by pointing out this same thing? Those two seem to be in conflict. Why do you say it feels like everyone else is making a bad-faith interpretation (by agreeing with you that “should be” is non-actionable), instead of Donna, who interpreted “should be” (without any other confirmation or consultation) as having the meaning of “definitely” in order to claim she is entitled to the LW’s services? That IS Donna’s fault, for making unfounded assumptions, no shifting or shirking of blame required. What ‘mistake’ could the LW possibly be held accountable for here – other than not being able to read Donna’s mind? She gave what most people understand that to be a non-committal response. She can’t shoulder the blame for someone who decides not to accept that and hears it as confirmation instead.

        People who assume a maybe means yes, and confuse a favor for an obligation because it benefits them to, and then try to hold you accountable to an oath you never made, or bully you into following through to appease their temper, expecting you to forego your own plans in favor of what they have decided you owe them, these are characteristics of the abusive and entitled. It’s not the kind of behavior to make into a habit, and LW definitely deserves an apology for it.

        It seems to me that Donna has become accustomed to the LW having no other conflicts, and has now taken it for granted. She crossed the line and needs to readjust a bit. Nothing wrong with that – happens to almost everyone that at some point – if she hadn’t acted out so badly afterwards. The proper response is to say, “Whoops. I guess I got a little bit ahead of myself that time. Well, this is going to suck because I really was hoping you’d be available. You’re always Kitty’s first choice. We’ll figure something else out, though. Have fun on your trip!”

      7. I think it’s infinitely less overbearing to ask for confirmation than to assume a commitment. If you can ask “when will you know” in response to “maybe” you can ask it in response to “I should be.”
        “I should be” is not essentially any different from “I don’t know” because both are uncertainty, so to assume it’s “yes, unless I tell you otherwise” is really stretching.
        It’s not bullshit or a technicality that it’s on the requesting party to ask for clear confirmation. Cat sitting or sex, if it’s not a definite yes, it’s at best a maybe and it’s on the requesting party to find out if it’s yes or no.

        Moreover, LW didn’t neglect to tell Donna in a timely manner: the trips are still months off. Even if LW had committed and forgotten, Donna seems way out of line. I can see having your nose out of joint, but asking someone to rearrange travel plans after the tickets are purchased? Nope.

      8. Seriously, as a planner myself, asking me “are you free” without explicitly mentioning catsitting or the conversation before would not result in me writing anything in my calendar. Because “are you free that weekend” can mean anything – picknick? party? that spa visit we’ve been thinking about doing? If you want to have firm plans with me, a “the weekend I was talking about is XXX. Are you free?” or “are you able to catsit on XXX?” is necessary. I can’t read minds. Otherwise, it’s a weird combination of wishful thinking and manipulation.
        And I have met people who work that way, make unclear arrangements/don’t clarify to be later able to blame you if it doesn’t work out the way they hoped but didn’t exactly ask for because if they asked you could have said no. Or to be able to guilt you into doing it.
        E.g. asking you the second when you are leaving the house if you are free on a weekend, they don’t now right now if it is the next or the following but pressure you for an answer because you should take care of their plants (I’m so happy they don’t have pets).
        I’ve met several of those, and all of them have been highly difficult and manipulative people. I feel very sorry for their plants.

    2. I think the key might be in “plans are plans”. It might be a trigger point for her, for whatever reason.
      Disclosure: I’m projecting! I *hate* it when I’m told “yeah sure, it should be fine” for something, and then later it’s all “nope”. I certainly wouldn’t ask anyone to change travel plans, but I don’t like feeling as if I’ll be bumped when something “better” comes along.

      1. I mean generally I get you, and if this were plans for LW and Donna to hang out it would be rude* that LW had something better come along. But this was plans to catsit Donna’s cat. And I mean no matter how much anyone likes cats, its hard to be offended that “something better came along.”

        *Rude but still maybe understandable given the circumstances of this particular trip.

        1. I don’t disagree, especially when it was all so far in advance. I’m just wondering if Donna has got a lot of that generally, which has helped her fly off the handle with this relatively fixable issue.

    3. I see a bit of myself in Donna, too. From Donna’s perspective, they talked about this plan already, Donna was therefore counting on LW being available and had mentally checked that off of her to-do list. I honestly understand why Donna would be *slightly irritated* when she found out LW had forgotten and made other plans (which LW acknowledges would have be reasonable). But yeah, Donna’s reaction is out of proportion by an order of magnitude.

      I had a similar recurring situation with a close friend of mine. She sees plans as much more fluid than I do. There were multiple times when we’d talk about both wanting to go to a thing, and I block that time off in my calendar, and then at the last minute she’s like “oh I actually made other plans” and I would be irritated because now my plans are canceled (from my perspective – from hers they were never solid in the first place).

      SO, I solved this by removing ambiguity in our plan-making. When we talk about doing something I say, “Can we make this a sure thing? I’m putting it in my calendar for X date/time.” If I do not get a firm and clear “Yes this is a plan” I assume it is not. Problem solved!

      If Donna was not being so over-the-top about this, they could solve it by introducing a similar ritual in their plan-making, and also by using shared Google Calendar events to make SURE the details are on the other person’s calendar. As it is, though, I agree with the Captain that making other arrangements is the better bet.

  11. Wait, OP is going away for *one weekend?* I see no mention of special health needs here–you can leave a CAT alone for TWO NIGHTS. If you feed them wet food, any person you know is equipped to come over and put wet food in a dish.

    I say this as a *lifelong* cat person who no longer loves leaving her senior cat by herself; you can absolutely leave a healthy cat alone for a weekend without ending a friendship over it.

    Seriously, this is a HUGE reason I have a cat instead of a cat and a dog. I can go to an out of town wedding without stressing about her.

    1. This. I have a great cat sitter (NYC, happy to share info if anyone needs it!), but if I’m going away for only one night, Sadie is perfectly fine with the auto-feeder and not having the litter scooped for 24 hours. Two nights is…possible depending on when I’m leaving and returning (sadie has a wet-food “tray” feeder that only dispenses up to six meals (and I’ll only put in dry food for days past day 1 anyway), so that can be a bit more complicated, plus, the litter box can start getting a little rank after two days).

      But i found my cat sitter by doing the following – asking a friend who had a great cat sitter. In NYC everything is very neighborhood specific because of logistics, so my friend’s cat sitter, who worked down in the west village, didn’t “service” my neighborhood (the upper west side), but had a whole network of other pet sitters that she could pull from to recommend someone in my neighborhood.

      Paying someone is definitely easier and more reliable than searching around for friends who want to deal with my cat. My parents are allergic, and my cat is, quite frankly, kind of an asshole. I’ve been using Susan for years now, and she sends me pictures and funny videos every day (usually involving Sadie, yes, hissing at her).

      1. Side question – wet food tray feeder? What is this magic? Still, not cleaning the litterbox daily isn’t an option for my kidney-disease kitty, but wet food on schedule would be so helpful at time.

        1. My household has used two types: one with a rotating lid over a multi-compartment round tray, and one with spring-loaded lids that pop open when the timer knob rotates into the unlock position. Miss Kitten has defeated the rotating kind, but hasn’t managed to hack the pop-open ones. There is a compartment for ice packs underneath.

          One can generally find them by browsing Amazon for automatic pet feeders, and possibly take the information to one’s friendly local pet supplies store if one prefers.

          1. I have friends who use the pop-open kind with great success; I’m unsure the particular brand, so no recommendations there, but I can recommend that style of timed food dispenser.

          2. I use the Trixie brand pop-open one with two meal compartments. I get unreasonably excited about very mechanically simple solutions to modern problems, so the fact that it’s basically an egg timer connected to a spring with an ice pack underneath, and it works, delights me to no end. You can get it on Amazon.

          3. Just to put a dissenting data point in here, my cat instantly defeated the pop open kind (even as an itty bitty baby) but hasn’t defeated the carousel kind. Not sure if there are different brands that might have slightly different mechanisms though!

          4. Ooooh interesting! I shall look into this. Maybe I can start sleeping in on weekends again and miss kitty can still get fed at her usual weekday time of 6.30am. XD

          5. That is genius. I’m going to show them to my dad; most of the time currently I’m around to feed the cat when he’s gone, but when I finish my associate’s degree I’ll be moving to a different city to finish my bachelor’s. He’s got friends who can come around to feed her, but she’s really a one-person cat and she likes to terrorize them.

        2. azurelunatic has described them pretty well (here’s one: https://www.amazon.com/PetSafe-5-Meal-Automatic-Dispenses-Digital/dp/B000GEWHNS/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1530042535&sr=8-8&keywords=wet+food+cat+feeder).

          My cat has figured out how to break into that one, so I have one now that was much more expensive, but that she hasn’t figured out how to push the tray around to get at the food. But that’s the general idea.

          Some of them will give warnings not to leave wet food in them because you shouldn’t leave wet food “out” for that long. First, I’ve found that if you leave it in a cool, dry place, it’s fine (again, I never leave wet food past day 1). Second, sometimes, when it looks like it’s going to be warmer out, I’ll freeze a bunch of cat food in pre-portioned servings (silicone ice cube trays are good for this) and put the frozen lumps in her feeder – by the time she eats, the lump has defrosted, but is still cold.

          (OMG, the things we do for our pets. At least I haven’t resorted to actually cooking human food for her. Yet.)

          Regarding litter boxes, they do make self-cleaning litterboxes too – my cat weirdly likes to pee directly down the drain in my bathtub (which might be why leaving her for two days is fine!) (and before anyone suggests she has a urinary tract issue, I’ve spoken to my vet about this NUMEROUS times. She’s fine. She’s just…weird), so I generally only have to deal with poop, anyway but if you need to “clean” the box daily and can’t be there, that might also be an option.

          1. Whuuuuuut, freezing the cat food is ingenious!

            Some people I pet sit for have a self-cleaning litter box about the size of a big yoga ball. It works well, and stinks about as much as an average litter box.

          2. Self-cleaning litterboxes? What is this wonderful witchcraft?!

            My trick was simply leaving two clean litterboxes out instead of one when I left 🙂

          3. “(and before anyone suggests she has a urinary tract issue, I’ve spoken to my vet about this NUMEROUS times. She’s fine. She’s just…weird),”

            WHY would you ask your vet about this? Do you WANT her to make it go away? That’s amazingly convenient!

            (OK, maybe there’s some sanitation thing, and you don’t want her to be sick and untreated, but still…)

          4. haaa! At first I was like, wait…that’s a dry food feeder. And then I kept reading and had to shut my office door so that no one else heard me cracking up.

            (oh, and to TootsNYC – apparently peeing in bathtubs is a big sign of UTIs, so I was worried when she first started doing it, but she’s fine. and it’s been…years. So I was just trying to head off 100 “helpful” comments advising me to get her to the vet ASAP.)

    2. My cat is the same as yours. We leave her for the weekend with no worries, and if we’re going away for a week, we have a friend stop by two or three times. She’s a bit needier for a few days when we come home, but overall she’s juuuust fine. And probably happy the dog isn’t around for a few days at that.

      BUT. Last time this came up on Ask a Manager I learned that many people would consider this downright CRUEL, probably because cats (and their owners) are all very different. Some puke everywhere and destroy things if their litter box is not scooped daily. Some are desperately sad if people aren’t around and refuse to eat. If you’re as attached to your cat as Donna appears to be… well, you probably lean toward the “Trig is abusing her cat by leaving her home alone for multiple days at a time” side of the cat-care spectrum. And I doubt suggesting it to Donna would help anything at all in this situation!

      1. 1) Thank you for the heads-up. Fair enough.
        2) Which does speak to the larger point of, If it’s that important, how do you not have a backup?

      2. I once had a colleague ask me to cat-sit and I was quite happy to do so until she explained that I would have to sleep at her place overnight. Because poor kitty could not be left alone on her own for that many hours in a row.

        I can’t remember why it was a problem for me (I think that I was going somewhere one evening and wanted to stay at my place that one night?) but in the end she decided to cancel the trip. She typically had others to care for her cat, so I was the last-minute request and she didn’t hold it against me that I wasn’t available, but I found it super weird. Mind you, I have done exactly as you have (ask someone to check on mine every couple days) and she’s been totally fine.

    3. I know, right??? One of the best things about cats is … they are CATS!. Leave out food, water, clean litter, and a few toys, and go take your weekend. We don’t bother with cat sitters for anything shorter than four days and the cats have always been fine, although they do complain a lot when we come back.

      1. When my dad goes away for a few days, it usually takes a day before the cat realizes that I’m going to remember to feed her, so on day one she won’t eat all her food – I strongly suspect in case I don’t feed her so she’ll still have something to eat. After that she scarfs it all down immediately.

        And she will complain and punish him for having been gone regardless of how much attention I give her, so I doubt that’s anything you can control.

    4. I agree with this! We’ve left our kitty alone for three days (two nights) before – she only ate dry food and was pretty good at self-regulating what she ate (i.e. I could safely leave food out and she wouldn’t gorge on all of it, just ate if she was hungry), and I just set out some extra bowls of water. I didn’t even need to get some kind of automatic feeder for her. She also went outside to toilet so the litterbox wasn’t a concern. Easy peasy (for us in our situation), and hopefully an option for other cat owners to keep in mind.

      1. Yeah, back when my partner and I lived closer to their family – close enough that we could do a weekend flyby visit pretty easily – we would leave our kitty with a couple dishes of food, several bowls of water, and make sure that the litterbox was clean before we left. (And we could use the cat as an excuse to duck out after a day or two of visiting, too.)

        Anything longer than that, we looked for a cat-sitter.

        These days, we look for a cat-sitter anyways because we have an Additional cat who *will* gorge herself sick if you leave food available, and we’re not going anywhere that’s a short trip.

        1. My cat does fine with food and water over a weekend. However, my friend with whom I trade catsitting for longer periods, has me check on hers for anything longer than one night. Her “boys” are all HUGE (not fat, just huge), running 16-20 pounds, and they have massive play fights. Sometimes food and water dishes get knocked over; sometimes, even litter boxes get dumped. Also, one of hers occasionally decides to go “fishing” in the water bowl, and then the water is gone. We live in a climate that is HOT most of the year, so no water is no good. Catsitting really is a necessity for that crew.

    5. My thoughts exactly. I have left for up to four days. Of course they missed the cuddles, but there was PLENTY of food and water and several clean litter boxes. This is ALSO the reason I have a cat and not a dog.

    6. Depends on the cat. Mine is 17 and gets wet food with supplements twice a day, and twice daily meds. He also gets depressed when I leave him. And he demands his litter boxes be scooped twice a day.

      Other cats are fine for a weekend. It just varies.

      1. Yeah. Cats vary a lot. I had a cat who wouldn’t defecate when alone. This was because he wanted a clean litter box. As soon as he finished defecating, he’d yowl until his litter box was scooped. Leaving him alone for a weekend wasn’t really an option.

        On the other hand, I never came home to a filthy litter box.

    7. Can I ask a couple of questions about this? A friend of mine once was going back to her home country (we are both recent immigrants) and asked me to look in on her cat. I couldn’t have him at my house as I’m really allergic, but I could only look in on him every two or three days, as they live a 35 minute drive from my house and I had two toddlers at the time, so not so easy to just nip in the car etc… she was fine with me going in once a week she said, but as I say it ended up being every 2-3 days. The first time I cleaned his litter box it was so disgusting that I kept having to step away to gag and breathe. It was horrific. I figured OK, I don’t know anything about cats, maybe this is how bad they smell. But I .. you know… scooped stuff out of the litter tray on every visit and then replaced the litter at the end of the week, and it never got anywhere near as bad as that first time.

      So, filthy litter box, and an expectation that a visit once a week to replace food and water… was my friend a neglectful cat owner? (You’ll be glad to hear she rehomed him about 6 months after that.)

      1. Hard to know for sure of course, but yeah that sounds like not great cat ownership. They aren’t dogs but they aren’t houseplants either.

      2. Only once a week seems extreme to me. Whatever your views are on what a particular cat needs, it seems like a recipe to have your property badly damaged from cat pee, water puddles and whatever else they destroyed out of sheer boredom. I learned the hard way that if a litter box isn’t clean enough for a cat’s liking, they’ll go elsewhere, and you won’t find it soon enough to save wood floors, carpets, etc. But I couldn’t say for sure about your friend’s litter box, because sometimes cats just randomly blow up a toilet the same way people do. Who knows if that was an accurate representation of the friend’s level of care.

        1. I clean my box once a week, but it’s large and full of a lot of litter, and it isn’t much worse on day 7 than it is on day 2. If I am going away for a week then I will usually leave out a second litter box, so that he has a lot of options. The nice thing with many cats is that they scratch and cover up their ‘business’, so if there is a lot of litter in the box then ideally they can use it all week without it being really smelly (although cats pee ammonia, so the basic cat pee smell tends to be distinctive).

          Some people put a small amount of litter in the box, and so there is nothing to scratch and cover, and the smell gets bad very quickly. So a very strong smell doesn’t always mean that she isn’t cleaning it often, but the fact that it smelled really bad shows that she didn’t clean it as often as she should, and in that way it is a bit neglectful. A strong litter box smell isn’t the worst thing for a cat, and checking in on them once weekly is potentially reasonable (if the cat is young and healthy, and there are multiple dishes of water in case one of them tips over), but it sounds like rehoming hers was a good idea.

    8. Yes! Cats are quite resilient! I have four and I’ve actually left them be for about five days (none of them are overeaters, so I put out a nice full dish of food, a large waterer, and a couple of extra litter boxes.) Granted, I was a nervous wreck the entire time I was out of town, but they were perfectly alright.

      (Note I would not recommend this for special needs kitties. That changes everything.)

    9. I have a neighbor friend I cat sit for regularly. For them, a weekend’s “cat sit” really means “daily visits so the cat doesn’t get lonely, plus check that the auto-feeder and gravity-fed water dish are both functioning properly. Oh, and scoop the litter if you think about it, but it’s really OK if you don’t.”

      Longer visits require a little more checking the feeders and scooping the litter, but really the point of the visits is more social than care-and-feeding. And then I send them texts and pictures when I come over to relieve any hint of anxiety they might be feeling about it all.

      I could certainly see them saying “Ah, if you can’t, no big deal, we’ll be home in two days.”

    10. “Wait, OP is going away for *one weekend?* I see no mention of special health needs here–you can leave a CAT alone for TWO NIGHTS. If you feed them wet food, any person you know is equipped to come over and put wet food in a dish.”

      Donna may be going away for much longer–hence the OP’s mention of:
      tell her as soon as I nail down my travel plans so that maybe we can work out something where I can take care of her cat half the time or before or after my trip if my trip is shorter than hers.

      But this sort of arrangement can certainly be made without all the drama! “Oh, rats!. But wait–you’re only gone for the weekend! Could you take care of my cat before you leave and after you get back?”

      1. The bummer about cats (okay, beside the midnight barfing and the furniture clawing) is that we lose them. I’m so sorry.

      2. I had to say goodbye to a really excellent cat just a couple of weeks ago. And then next day, Asshole Google Photos reminded me of my orange guy, who I had to say goodbye to about 8 months ago. THANKS ASSHOLE GOOGLE PHOTOS. And right now the remaining cat is at the vet for a minor procedure and I’m lonely…

        Upside: we took the Humane Society training to foster bottle-fed kittens. KIT-TENS! We couldn’t do that with 3 cats but now we can.

        1. I’m so sorry you lost some friends! The photo thing keeps happening to me, too.

  12. I just cannot get over how much letter there is here, when it really is a simple issue. When our friends do work* for us, even if we do work for each other for mutual benefit, it is a kindness and a favor and we have no right to get angry at them for not working for us. Even if LW has a history of being flaky (and there’s no evidence to suggest this is the case) Donna doesn’t have the right to get angry about LW making plans on a weekend Donna wants to be away. But the letter… kept… going! I am so sorry that things have gotten hostile, LW, but you can’t fix this or probably even make sense of it.

    I have a cat sitting arrangement with a neighbor who is also a beloved friend. It is a good arrangement for both of us: it’s not far for her to come, she loves my cats, and she can use my laundry unit while she hangs out with them. But it is still a FAVOR she does for me, and if she’s not available I hire someone. (Walkies/The Cat Peeps in Philadelphia, A+ do recommend.) My skittish cats might be afraid of a stranger coming in, they might not warm up to a stranger for the brushing and playtime my friend usually gives them, but they will be fed and checked on and I’ll get daily photo updates and everything will be fine. It would never in a million years occur to me to blow up our relationship over a catsitting miscommunication, and if Donna does this (or if she feels that LW has blown up the relationship by not scheduling her life around Donna) then I am sorry to say that what you had was not a friendship but a transaction.

    1. Oh dang, there was supposed to be an asterisk there. Work* includes petsitting, childcare, giving people rides to places, doing the lion’s share of social planning/decision-making, things like that. Sometimes it’s legit difficult to do or arrange the work for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean our friends are responsible for doing or arranging it.

    2. “When our friends do work* for us, even if we do work for each other for mutual benefit, it is a kindness and a favor and we have no right to get angry at them for not working for us.”

      YES. And I would add: when our friends do *free* work for us, we have no right to get angry when they cancel.

      If you want someone who can make a hard commitment, you should PAY them.

      1. If an arrangement goes in both directions, then it’s not really a favour, it’s more of a barter system. And if one person takes their responsibility much more seriously than the other, there’s bound to be some hurt feelings at bare minimum.

    3. I heartily concur. I actually was in a very similar situation to the LW recently – I agreed to watch my friend’s cat while she was away for the summer, and then a few months later, I learned that I would be getting surgery and would have very limited mobility for a good while afterwards. I had to cancel even though I was actually looking forward to the catsitting.

      My friend took it really well though because as LW outlined, when you have a dependant of any kind you should never have only a single plan for their care, and treating an agreement from a friend to do you a favor like a legally binding contract is not good policy. Friendship requires freedom and freedom requires being able to prioritize things when necessary.

      1. I’m glad your friend took that well. I think anyone who thinks cat sitting>>needing surgery wouldn’t be my friend anymore, TBH, even if they apologized for a Donna reaction later.

    4. And even professionals we pay for things are within their rights to cancel on us. If my dog sitter contacted me 3 months out from a booking to say “hey sorry, turns out I can’t watch your dog that weekend after all,” the most I would be is a little bit flustered at the inconvenience, or maybe a little sad I couldn’t use my favorite dog sitter. Things happen! And when they do, you give people as reasonable a heads-up as you can under the circumstances.

      1. Yup. I’m a tutor, and I’m committed to helping my students and being professional, but no amount of professionalism on earth is going to stop me from throwing up if I get a stomach bug. Clients who understand things like “I’m sick” or “I’m having a personal emergency” get first dibs on rescheduling and extra effort made for them; clients who want to chew me out get mysteriously fewer opportunities for me to help them.

  13. Yikes. I totally understand LW’s friend being disappointed, and anxious that she won’t find a suitable alternative in time, but she has to understand that these things happen! Cat sitting arrangements are rarely set in stone, sometimes they fall through, did she really not have a backup plan?

    And yeah, friends help each other with stuff. Friends help friends move, friends give each other rides, friends look after their friends’ pets, and it’s great when your go-to cat sitter if your friend! However, LW’s friend sounds like one of those people who takes “that’s what friends are for” to a completely absurd level, and seems to believe that people are morally obligated to make helping her their #1 priority at all times, and they can never back out of an agreement or change their plans. She sounds like someone I know who regularly expects her friends to leave work in the middle of the day to drive her to the doctors office, and if they say no, they have to stay at work, she assumes they were just using her all this time.

    1. Agreed. The part where Donna thinks that only an Emergency is something that warrants cancellation of cat-sitting plans is, to me, worrying and unrealistic. That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works…
      What is this emergency, even? Death? And earthquake? What would see accept as good enough? Because she is the one that gets to decide, I guess.

      1. Yes! And “an emergency” is going to, by definition, be something that comes up at the very last minute. Which is going to be way more of an inconvenience than having to re-make a plan for 3 months out.

        (Honestly, it’s reminding me of the time a friend decided she needed to end the relationship, but the only way she could do that was by creating a HUGE fight between us. I was baffled, kept apologizing, nothing worked, the friendship didn’t die so much as was ground into sawdust. I still think about her sometimes.)

  14. I agree with both OP’s and Cap’s take of the situation and think Donna would be better suited to find an organization that explicitly does pet care complete with confirmed times and solid reviews.

    My husband and I tend to adopt older cats with health problems and I hated the idea of asking a friend to hunt down the critters and jam meds down their hissing throats. I much preferred having vettted professionals do the job which has worked out for us as husband and I are frequent travellers and the sitters have become familiar to our furbabes.

    All that said, I am the kind of person that takes “should be free” as confirmation. “She seems more outraged than hurt” IS sometimes how people display being hurt, and I think Donna had the right questions assuming that you would both be each other’s cat sitters going forward. It’s fair to both you and Donna if you mentioned to her that you didn’t want to be a catsitter. I would exclude the room for interpretation that Cap has (whether to revisit) since it sounds like you’d only be willing to cat sit as long as Donna wasn’t as anxious about it in the future, which I think is an unfair ask of someone.

    1. AnonBee, yay, it is great that you adopt older cats with medical problems! I have now occasionally fostered cats like that for a few years and among them are such amazing personalities. I do not envy the process of forcing them to take their medication. In our house it has usually been a two person job with the cat rolled into a blanket very firmly. Not fun for the cat and even less fun for an inexperienced petsitter.

      1. Convallaria majalis, I had a cat who deeply disliked taking pills and who had to be on a daily regimen of multiple antibiotics several times a day after a nasty infection. We burrito-ed her in towels to reduce scratching. She strongly disagreed with the idea of taking the pills and showed her displeasure by biting through my fingernails several times when I tried to put pills in her mouth.

        My vet sold me a cheap little plunger/syringe device which let me give her the pills without being bitten. It was great and made the pill process easier for both of us. My kitty got used to it, even though she still hated it. By the end of the few months of treatment, we could just hold her without the towels (still holding her paws/claws carefully!).

        1. Brisvegan, wow, what an ordea for both you and your cat! The plunger sounds like a very useful item, I have to check if our vet would have something like that.

          Luckily we do not have to burrito our own cats, only the most scared foster cats not used to human touch. After taking care for different cats for a few years and seeing tens of personalities it is slowly beginning to dawn to me how much individual cats can differ from each other. I have cared for cats who LOVED humans so much that they offered to take multiple microchips or medications in order to be held to pitiful balls of fur with huge scared eyes, hissing desperately from the corner. One of our own cats seems to accept medication gracefully only to hide the pill in her mouth and later spit it out. They can be so clever and amusing and it is wonderful to watch their transformation to health, strength and trust. The strength of life never ceases to amaze me.

          1. My vet calls it a “pill syringe” because it does act just like a syringe for liquid meds, but it’s designed to hold solid meds. I’m pretty sure I got mine at a pharmacy though, and didn’t have to go to the vet’s office.

          2. thneedle, thank you, that is interesting. I have dissolved deworming medicines to very small amounts of water in a syringe and then given it to one of the cats but I have never seen anything like what you described. Clearly I must ask a local pharmacy or a vet. Thank you!

      2. When my husband and I give meds there’s no problems – we’ve been gentle and slow with them (e.g. we don’t chase them, just walk behind them) and after a few days the cats know the routine and don’t run. We give them lots of scratches and treats afterwards and talk softly to them and eventually one person can handle even subQ fluids.

        1. AnonBee, sounds like you are doing a wonderful job, using positive reinforcement techniques! We also use those to ease all the processes. I do not yet know how to handle subQ fluids but it might soon be time to learn that skill.

          Towels are only used for the most scared nearly feral kittens we sometimes care for. When they come they often need a long deworming medication, ear drops and cleaning to remove the ear mites and eye drops and at that point they are unfortunately often not used to human touch. It usually takes from one to two weeks for them to become more trusting; for some the process is even faster. It is indeed easier if treats motivate them, sometimes it takes a bit of effort to find the treat which works.

          Please, pet your cats for us! ❤

      1. I don’t personally ask friends to cat sit but I do text my professional catsitters like that and a “Sounds good!” or a “We are free!” serves as their confirmation.

        Also, I assumed OP knew Donna meant catsitting since she didn’t follow up with “Why do you ask”, but now I understand not everyone does that.

      2. Around me that’s often just how people talk. Even in work situations. Certainly if I said I ‘should be free’ in my own life (work, friends, volunteering) it would be taken as just meaning ‘yes’. Depending on the thing and on the lead time, changing plans would often still be possible, but that’s what it would be taken as – changing plans.

    2. My animals take pills fairly easily, however I have fostered some really cranky / mostly feral cats and Pill Pockets have worked wonderfully.

  15. This letter made me happy that I don’t have a cat, and even happier that I don’t have a friend named Donna. LW, I totally understand why this whole exchange would prompt you to be done, but I’m sorry that you’re dealing with it just the same!

          1. My cat decides it’s dinner time a good hour to two hours before it actually is…

          2. My cats do a really good impression of “poor starving victims” even when they were just fed half an hour ago and didn’t even finish it all.

        1. All of my cats (even older ones) have been fine with flexibility…the trick is to not give into their demands and establish a routine, much like dealing with a toddler.

          I get home anywhere between 5:30 and 7pm at night and all of my cats have just sat patiently by their food bowl, knowing that the first thing I do after taking off my shoes/bag is to feed them.

          Same with weekends…I get up anywhere between 7am and 10am and the cats know they are third on the list behind 1)leave bed 2)pee. I’ve trained them out of meowing in my face at 8am by just not giving in.

      1. Oh I know, I’ve had cats before! My last cat was a murder machine. We’d come home and our yard would literally be littered with dead things and pieces of dead things. It was so bad that we had a designated “death shovel” for picking it all up. And in the winter when she was stuck in the house she would just get grouchier and grouchier, and I know it was because she needed to kill something. She was basically the cat version of Dexter. Then we got a puppy and I’m pretty sure she said “F this place” and ran away (at least that’s what I tell myself).

      1. The OP Donna’s behavior would make much more sense if it were from Cat Donna.


  16. Oh, wow – thank you, Sockdrawer, I’d skimmed over the sign-off and not even seen it, and it is awesome!

    Back to the subject, Tail of Two Kitties; my opinion, for what it’s worth, is that:

    1. You are, objectively speaking, the one with right mainly on your side here. As in, you screwed up in a minor way (forgetting you’d told your friend you were free that weekend) but she is reacting in a way that’s really disproportionate to the level of your screwup/the harm caused.

    2. This is one of the very many situations in life where being in the right is going to have very little play on how it all shakes out. Donna feels differently from you, and isn’t going to be logicked out of how she feels. So, knowing you’re right is not of much practical help. It might, however, be of emotional help to know that you at least don’t have to feel guilty about this one; you’ve done what you could to clear up what bit of the problem is of your making (forgetting you’d told her you should be free) and I think at this point your conscience can be clear.

    3. I wish there was a way out of this that would leave you with a guaranteed intact friendship with Donna, but the reality is that there might not be. That sucks, but it’s true. Donna wants a level of cat care and commitment from you that is somewhat unreasonable and that you aren’t OK with giving, so you’ve had to say no. And, on top of that, now need to say no to cat care in general in the future. There is a good chance that Donna won’t take that well and will end the friendship over it. There’s also a good chance that Donna will seethe for a bit, calm down, and decide that actually she doesn’t want this to be the dealbreaker on her friendship, so things might well yet end happily, but there’s really not much you can do beyond being clear about boundaries and polite and pleasant in how you manage the whole thing, and then leaving the ball firmly in her court and preparing yourself for either outcome. Trying to conciliate your way back into her good books by doing more than you’re able to do wouldn’t help, because it would breed resentment on your part, which would also be death to the friendship.

    4. If, after you’ve delivered the Captain’s speech, she tries giving you more grief about it, just be polite and don’t engage. (If it’s in person or on the phone, end the conversation; if it’s by e-mail, give a brief polite “Sorry you feel that way, but we’re going to have to agree to differ on this one” type of reply and don’t get drawn in further.) Hopefully that piece of advice won’t be necessary; I’ve just read CA enough to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

    Good luck; I hope this ends with Donna deciding to let it go and continue the friendship, but, either way, know that you’ve got this.

    1. We’ve all had people–people we thought were good friends–go batshit crazy on us.

      We all tend to find “the story” that will explain the bizarre behavior of others. And even when we know we’re right/not wrong, we often take on the guilt that goes with a friendship that heads south with no reasonable…reason. (Ran out of vocabulary, apologies!)

      Someone once said, “A reason, a season, a lifetime.” It’s a beautiful, non-judgmental way of framing those friendships that end up in a crazy place, of dealing with friends who suddenly show us a side of themselves that’s baffling and even jaw-dropping.
      https://oncommonground.wordpress.com/2008/10/09/a-reason-a-season-a-lifetime/ And now that I’ve read it for the 50th time, I see even the “lifetime” friendships aren’t necessarily life-long friendships. But the way they can inform OUR lifetime, is.

      This essay helps me get through those insane blow-ups that make no sense. And as a dear friend is always quick to remind me, “That’s THEIR journey, not yours. That’s between them and God, not them and you.” That helps, too. TOTK (love that!!), I hope you’ve found comfort today.

      We write to wiser-than-I-am-people like Capt. A because we need the clarity of what we brought to the situation, in case we wan/tneed to “do better”. And we look for the permission to leave that steaming pile l’ poo right where it is, too. Sometimes we just need to hear, “U R not doing it wrong.”

      I love what’s been shared here today by all of you! I’m having a hard week, & this is helping me, too!

      1. Hey, could you please not with the “batshit crazy” descriptor of unreasonable behavior? A lot of people with mental illness (including me) can and do behave mostly reasonably, and that phrasing ties into a lot of shaming/ableism around mental illness that many of us (including me) could very well do without hearing/reading.

          1. It’s a topic that hits home for me, and I don’t expect you to be superhuman, catching everything that happens. You have stuff to do off the internet, after all.

            And thank you for the link of alternative phrases. 🙂

          2. Tangential, but thank you Captain for sharing this article. This is something I’ve been working on and I appreciate the extra impetus to keep doing so.

          3. Thanks for the link! Although I scrolled down for a while and almost gave up before reaching a list of words for “I don’t like what you just did, but it’s not crazy”.

    2. I would even push back against the idea that the LW screw up in a minor way by telling Donna she may be available that weekend. When she told her, she was still available (as I understand the plans for the trip surfaced later) and she did say she “Should be available” which does not even equate to: I’m 100% available. So she just told her the truth. There was no talk about any kind of cat-sitting or any commitments. LW did not agree to anything nor did she make any promises.

      I guess it’s true that when she did make plans for that date she could have said: “Oh yeah, Donna asked about my availability way back, I’m gonna up-date her on that”. But i think that not remembering this small conversation when no commitment was made was not really a screw up. Her making the up-date would be accommodating and kind, not doing it was, imo, neutral. Just… completely neutral.

      I think the whole ‘LW did something small but wrong’ is not what happened at all, it’s just Donna wants to convince her that she agreed to something and then forgot. That never happened and Donna is gaslighting pretty hard here.

      1. Tho the longer I think about it, the more it seems to depend on: do we believe Donna that she and LW had a conversation face-to-face where the LW agreed to pet-sit, and it’s just not recorded in anyway. I admit I may be too harsh in my judgement that it did not happen and Donna is just manipulating facts.

        1. One more answer to myself! Sorry for rambling on and on, LW! I’s not my day I guess.
          As I wrote somewhere above, the idea that you never actually agreed to cat-sitting is really something we will never find out, as it’s not recorded anyway. Obviously, I did not believe Donna, she seems like someone who can be.. not quite honest. But I just wanna admit that I can be totally wrong about that one! Now when I thing about it, I might been to harsh. And maybe you did agree explicitly. Maybe that whole point is mute then.

          My point being: even if you did, she is still operating under assumption that you in fact are NOT ALLOWED to change your plans when you are doing a 100% free favor for her. And this is just… incredibly entitled. And it puts the whole idea of a favor on it’s head and I wanna just tell you: you get to push back against this, hardcore, EVEN if you agreed at some point. That does not make you a jerk.

          Ok, I think I’m done. Again, sorry for this messy comment!

          1. I don’t believe Donna either. She seems very entitled, and that level of entitlement usually goes hand in hand with a high level of manipulation. I think LW gave the equivalent of “Yeah, maybe” and Donna decided it was “Yes, definitely.” She’s now trying to push the LW to comply in a really gaslighty way.

        2. Even if Donna is not gaslighting and they did have a firmer conversation, I don’t think it’s reasonable to only confirm plans this far out verbally and expect perfect memory. It’s just as likely that LW would make a note when she got home ‘must sit for Donna 1st week of September’ when it was the third week. If you don’t give someone a written reminder to calendar something that you’re relying on to book tickets or whatever, with so many written means of communication, you kindof… Don’t get to be surprised if there’s a memory error.

          1. (that is to say memories are fallible, people who need things are more likely to prioritize remembering they need those things than someone doing a favor they don’t “need,” and if it’s important that something someone is doing as a favor is actually done, the mental/bookkeeping burden of making sure it doesn’t get lost by fallible memory is on the person getting the favor).

          2. Well, sure, but that’s why you confirm by text afterwards.

            I mean sure, Donna needs to let it go and forgive the misunderstanding/forgetfullness/etc and understand that the LW was overwhelmed with their own life and didn’t mean to drop the ball, and just be happy the misunderstanding was cleared up so early.

            But she was 100% reasonable to take verbal conversation plus text confirmation as an agreement and assume that the LW had written it down at that point. I have never met anyone who makes a written contract for their friend to petsit. You ask them once generally, have a brief text or email conversation confirming dates, and then you both write it down.

            You can have sympathy for the LW and also think Donna is not being a good friend, without having to make out that Donna is automatically some kind of evil completely unreliable person….

          3. For me personally, if you don’t watch me write it in my planner, it’s reasonable to assume a 50/50 chance I’ll forget about it.

          4. Hey, right now I”m listening to a story about some old farmers who wanted to adopt a boy to help around the place, and they sent the message thru about 6 people, and guess who came to live with them? An intense little red-haired girl named Anne Shirley. Unclear communication gets unclear responses and it’s on the communicator to be clear. (As Marilla admits she should have been.)

        3. LW said that Donna said that LW asked her to text her the dates, which LW says sounds like something they would say. LW seems to believe it’s very possible this conversation occurred (although, it’s on Donna that she never followed through by texting the dates).

          Donna’s response makes a bit more sense if you believe this convo took place, as well. Still very disproportionate but makes it more clear why she thought the plans were confirmed.

          Still think LW is 99.9% in the right but I don’t see a reason to make Donna into more of a villain than she already is without evidence.

          1. But she did follow through on texting the dates, at which point the LW said she should be available. At which point Donna presumably figured two conversations (one spoken and one text) were enough, and wrote it into her calendar and started making plans.

            Clearly the LW’s mind was elsewhere and she forgot to write it down at the time, or forgot what she was agreeing to in the text since she had forgotten the conversation. Which is an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re under lots of stress, and it was caught months ahead of time so it’s not the end of the world.

      2. I’m with you; “I should be free” does not equate commitment and cannot reasonably be taken as such. Her friend is showing a weird sense of entitlement over the OP’s time.

        To be honest, I’d go a step further and say that even if OP had made a clear promise, she should be entitled to change her mind without being guilt-tripped to death. It would be a bigger deal, and Donna would be owed early notification and an explanation. But the reaction described in the letter is wildly disproportionate even for this worst- worst- case scenario.

        1. Seriously yes! If I asked someone about their availability and they responded with “I should be free,” I wouldn’t assume that meant, “oh I am definitely able and committed to doing the thing you’re about to ask me to do.” Donna can complain all she wants about how her interpretation (“should be free” = “yes I will immediately block off my calendar for cat sitting, it’s now set in stone”) is correct…but she’s dead wrong. Team Not-Donna all the way here. Also Team-OMG-Just-Board-the-Damn-Cat-Already

      3. Exactly! “I should be is not a firm commitment in my book, and it was up to Donna to make it clear that it was before she assumed it was.

      4. Exactly this. OP made no commitment at all. She said she “should” be available and that was the end of the conversation on both parts. Donna made no further plans of any kind with OP…she just assumed that “should” meant “Yes, I will make no plans for my life for the next several months in order to accommodate you.”

        1. I think we’re spending too much time parsing phrasing to determine whether there was a “firm” commitment or not.

          Even if there WAS a firm commitment, even if OP had said, “yes, I can totally catsit for you that weekend”, what happens if OP then gets invited to an event that is NOT flexible, like a wedding (and I’ll just throw in, a wedding for a close family member, to make it unmissable)? Would Donna expect OP to miss the wedding because she made a prior commitment to catsit? Would Donna suggest to OP to tell her family member to change the date of the wedding? What if it was a funeral with only a few days notice?

          What if OP got injured and literally couldn’t couldn’t help anymore? What if OP got injured the day before she was supposed to catsit and was in the hospital?. Would Donna prioritize her friend or her cat?

          There are a whole variety of situations for which Donna would be required to make alternate arrangements, regardless of how firm the commitment was, and at least here, she has months of notice.

          Sometimes plans have to change. Adult human beings need to sometimes learn how to deal with these things like adults.

          1. I’ve known more than my fair share of Donnas over the years and I would bet that yes, she would absolutely expect/demand that OP change plans.


  17. I feel so sorry for you and for Donna that she reacted this way. I have a similar mutual cat-care arrangement with a friend. Since my old cat has recently had some health issues that means he now gets daily subcutaneous fluids, I texted my friend to ask if she’d be okay with doing that on my upcoming weeklong vacation but absolutely told her she had every right to say no and that I could find a petsitter if she would prefer not to. *That* is the correct way to react to friends being unable/unwilling to take care of your cat, not what Donna did. “Oh, you can’t/don’t want to? No problem, I will find someone else.” Other folks commented that she probably has something else going on that made her react the way she did and I suspect that is true, but I just wanted to reaffirm that you are not a jerk because you are out of fucks to give. She’s the jerk for making it all about her. Enjoy your vacation!!!

    Captain, I’m so sorry about your kitty. I lost my other old kitty last summer and it was hard.

    1. Oh, it’s so hard to find cat care when one of them needs subQ fluids! Our usual cat sitter doesn’t do subQ fluids, but we only need it once a week. My dad doesn’t like to do daily cat care, but he’s fine doing weekly subQ. So we just made the arrangement that the cat sitters would meet up with my dad and help him hold the cat while he administers fluids. And if either my dad or the sitters were not okay with this, we’d have found a different solution.

      By the way, if anyone in the Seattle Eastside area needs a dynamite cat sitting service, I am happy to recommend Meow and Beyond. Larissa and Rodrigo just make our cats happy when they come around. http://www.meowandbeyond.com

      1. That’s a great solution! And I love the name Meow and Beyond. Too bad it’d be a long commute for them to take care of my kitty in the Boston area. 🙂

  18. 100%: “sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money.” I’m sorry you’re dealing with this OP, you did nothing wrong!

    I hire a professional pet sitter because I know that (due to how much I worry about my cats) any mishaps wherein my cats suffered would probably be a friendship ender. So I don’t put friends in that position! Much easier to fire a pet sitter than a friend (though it has never happened, all my pet sitters have been wonderful!).

    1. That’s a very reasonable way of looking at things! In the opposite direction, that’s why I prefer renting cars to borrowing from a friend. Screw up a rental, well, that’s what insurance is for. The thought of putting a friend through the inconvenience of dealing with the repair would make me a nervous wreck the entire time I was behind the wheel.

  19. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, OP. I think you’re completely in the right here, and if this is grounds for you for being done, so be it.

  20. I’ve run into this with cat-sitting where someone had to cancel the literal day before I was supposed to leave (as opposed to far in advance, with lots of time for finding alternatives). It happens, and in my view, the responsibility of finding a cat caretaker – and dealing with any unexpected situations related to that – is ultimately mine, as the person who opted to be the primary caretaker of a cat. Even as someone who is generally pretty bothered by others bailing on confirmed plans (explicitly confirmed, as in, “Yes, I will drive to Chicago with you this weekend,” not, “Three weeks from next Tuesday should work with me [implicit: check back the week before].”), Donna’s reaction also strikes me as disproportionate; in my situations, my only concern was finding an alternative cat-sitter, not picking a fight with a friend whose plans changed. As CA said, if it were a PATTERN of making plans and then bailing, especially with with short or no notice, that would be a very different situation that might have me reassessing my view of, investment in, and/or approach to the relationship (and certainly relying on someone like that would not be my primary cat-sitting plan), but an occasional change of plans is to be expected from the other agentic animals around us.

    I’m sorry you’re facing this from someone you thought was a close friend. Maybe she’s just having a bad initial reaction and it will pass, and it’s also possible that she has a VERY different view of friendship generally or your friendship specifically that really is incompatible in some ways with your view, so your relationship could also have different dynamics moving forward.

  21. OP, your response sounds utterly reasonable to me, and I’d have the same reaction that you did about being done.

    I personally board my cat because she has morning and night medications, which is more than I’d ask of anyone but family, and I’ve certainly been able to make plans less than two week out on several occasions. Both of my most recent vets have provided that service. I also don’t find her protests credible.

    I hope you have fun on your trip!

  22. I’m a cat sitter, and I aim to keep the commitment rain or shine, I’ve cat-sat with the flu more than once, and I know who to call if I’m hospitalized or something and can’t make it. But I, too, have had to cancel a commitment because of travel. I *could* miss a family wedding in order to scoop some cat’s poop… but I just didn’t want to. I helped the owner find another sitter (I used a site called Pawshake, I recommend it, it’s available in some countries but not others) and they were perfectly reasonable about it, because they know it’s a job and these things sometimes happen with work. And I felt mildly bad about it for like an hour. But because you’re volunteering your help, you’re supposed to grovel before Donna? This sometimes happens with volunteering in any capacity– the personal boundaries people would (probably) respect with paid professionals are thrown to the wind, and instead there’s all this ridiculous guilt tripping and invasion of personal time and space.

  23. LW, I used to cat sit for many friends, and then when too many things got weird, I cold turkey stopped. I’d make exceptions for a friend who couldn’t afford to pay for a sitter (the local vet techs don’t charge much, and they all are available) or a friend with a very sick cat (although honestly a vet tech would probably be better in that case). But my current attitude is, I don’t want to ruin our friendship, and it’s not hard to find a good paid sitter around here.

    I’ve come to the same place with receving most favors (eg. getting rides places, staying at people’s houses) nowadays. After one too many bizarre blow-ups, my attitude is that it’s cheaper to get a hotel, pay for a taxi, etc., than it is to deal with the potential for drama. Of course it’s easier to refuse to take favors than it is to refuse to give them, but I think in this case, the lesson is: henceforth, pay for a cat sitter (your vet’s techs and receptionists are probably great sitters!) and don’t agree to pet sit for anyone else. And honestly, Donna is probably off your future favor-giving list.

  24. “When I think about “avoiding an incident like this in the future,” I think that I don’t want there to be a future cat sitting exchange anymore and I want to avoid this happening again by never doing this again. I don’t know why, I just feel suddenly done and I’d rather hire a sitter through the internet for my cat … Am I a jerk?”

    NONONO you are *NOT* a jerk and your instinct to nip this situation entirely in the bud is absolutely the right one. Any future cat sitting plans will always be fraught with tension and uncomfortable accusatory feelings and guilt and a million check-ins to see if plans are ‘confirmed’. I think your feeling of being done is a logical reaction to her epic overreaction. It’s clearly best to make a clean break here to avoid this kind of situation in the future. And I would not agree to partially cat sit for this trip, either. You don’t owe her that. You acted reasonably and well within the bounds of an arrangement between friends. Heck, even if you’d been a professional cat sitter, cancelling a job over two months in advance would have been reasonable!

    It’s clear that *Donna* is the one making this a friendship-ending incident, not you.

    1. ‘And I would not agree to partially cat sit for this trip, either. You don’t owe her that.’

      Good call. The partial cat sit arrangement thing feels like such a power play!

      1. Yes! I was so glad too that the LW didn’t offer to help pay for catsitting either, I was almost expecting that come up in this question.

  25. I *always* line up an “in case of emergency” while I’m gone, whether a friend or a pro is watching my cats. When I will be gone for a long time (like a couple of weeks) I usually book two cat sitters. Paid pro comes in the morning, friend/neighbor comes in the evening, for example. There’s only so much you can expect someone to do for free. Any time someone rejects readily available solutions (such as, using the *months* before the trip to find someone else) the “reason” for the conflict is called into question. Also, even if the LW has chronically flaked on Donna (doesn’t seem that way from the letter, but it’s been raised a possible reason for the reaction), Donna should go: “Ok, my friend is flaky, I can’t deal with it anymore, and I will just find someone to watch my cat from now on because I can’t rely on her.” Browbeating her and continuing to try to get her to cat-sit makes no sense. Reminds me of a Carolyn Hax letter where the LW’s boyfriend refused to lend her 30 bucks in an emergency because he thought she should learn to plan better or something. CH was like, “That’s petty and controlling, if she’s really so irresponsible just give her the 30 bucks and break up with her.”

  26. You’d be justified in ending the pet-sitting arrangement for any reason – you didn’t sign a blood oath that you would look after each others’ cats until the end of time, did you? Your friend is creating an excessive amount of drama for something that’s IMO pretty normal and not a big deal.

    I mean, if her cat is awful and tries to murder everyone else but you – I’m looking at you, demon-in-feline-shape who lives with my sister – I can see her being upset, but this is ridiculous. I don’t know if it’s friendship-ending but it would sure give me pause about spending a lot of time with her and/or undertaking plans with her.

    1. Or would it give you – paws – about spending a lot of time with her? (wah wah) (Sorry, I’m terrible.)

    2. Good point about ending the pet-sitting arrangement at any time.

      Did Donna really think the OP was going to cat sit for her forever? There was bound to be a day, sooner or later, when the OP was unavailable to cat sit for Donna and would need to cancel or end this arrangement. Could be caused by a big move to a new city, a family emergency, a sudden bout of the flu, etc.

      Donna should’ve planned for this but the fact that she didn’t tells me that this fight was going happen eventually.

  27. This sounds like the kind of situation I find myself in a lot, because I have ADHD. I try to put everything on my calendar and respond tentatively until I can confirm that I can do something, but when times get stressful, things fall through the cracks.

    If this is a pattern of behavior with you (like it is with me), then I think explicitly ending your mutual cat sitting arrangement forever seems appropriate. You’re friend needs a level of reliability that you can’t provide, so continuing would just set her up for disappointment.

    If I feel like I’ve dropped the ball on something, I’ll even give letdown friend the money to hire the help they were expecting from me (I’m lucky that this is an option for me). That way, I can completely sever the mutual help arrangement on a note that feels fair. You are in no way obligated to do this, but if it’s an option for you, I’d recommend it.

    1. Wow, you sound like a super nice and generous person. Kudos to you for working hard at something you know you struggle with. It’s really kind that you even help cover costs where you feel the need. But please try to not let the Donna’s of this world take advantage. There are plenty of people who will feel let down or act disappointed even if you did nothing wrong, and will let you feel shitty about it and pay for it when you shouldn’t. I don’t think the LW has done anything to warrant Donna’s reaction, or the label of unreliable, and offering to pay for Donna’s cat-sitting just rewards this awful behaviour and teaches Donna she can walk all over LW. Donna was the one who didn’t follow up the tentative ‘should be free’ before going ahead and booking her travel. The LW hasn’t let her down.

  28. OP, it’s definitely time to stop talking with Donna about this situation. If she brings it up again, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to respond with some version of “Donna, we’ve talked about this for a really long time, and I don’t know what else to tell you. I’m not going to change my plans to meet an obligation that I didn’t realize I had, and I wouldn’t expect you to either. I’m tired of fighting with you over what is really just a miscommunication about schedules. I don’t want to lose your friendship, but I’m going to consider this topic closed going forward.”

    She’ll probably be pissed and hurt, but she already is. Give her space and use the time to evaluate the other parts of your friendship. Maybe there’s something worth saving! Maybe there isn’t!

    1. Great script. I was especially taken by the fact that Donna wanted OP to reschedule her plans and cat sit (for free) for Donna’s convenience. Particularly based on a “should be” several months in advance.

  29. OP, this is not about Donna’s cat. This is a power play on Donna’s part to see if she can make you change plans/cancel your trip/cede to her wishes. Or at least feel like you owe her big time the next time she wants something. When someone is acting out disproportionately over a minor issue (in this case, one that Donna could easily fix), and assigning all the responsibility to a “guilty” party, it’s usually a power grab. Do not give in.

    Also, and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but I think your friend Donna is full of bees. I’d put distance between you two for your own well being. I’m sorry about your friend, and I hope you have a lovely trip.

    1. So much this! Yup, it seems like a tactic to see how far she can take this/move the boundaries for the future or create some ‘you won me’ situation. Yikes!

  30. LW, you are being reasonable and Donna is not.

    My rule around favors for friends is: I only do favors for free if I 100% want to and I set boundaries around what I will and won’t do. (“I’ll cat sit on the weekend but am not available during week.” Or: “I will cat sit on the weekends but if you want my services during the week, that will cost $x/day.”)

    My rule around receiving favors from friends is: if you’re helping me for free, I will have low expectations and will accept the help you give without complaint. And if I want help beyond that, I will offer you money for the additional work or will find someone else to pay for the job.

    In other words, if you want to set the terms of the work (including a commitment to a date/time), you should be paying for that control.

  31. Hey LW, I think it’s totally appropriate and reasonable if you want to end the cat-sitting arrangement. I’m sorry this blew up so badly, who could have expected that… I just wanted to give you some reassurance that – the way I read your letter- Donna seems to be really unreasonable.

    Saying ‘at date X I’m probably available’ is NOT saying ‘I agree to sit your cat at date X’. It’s just not! i understand that she thought this in the context of your arrangement but it’s still her mistake to assume that, just because you did this thing before, and because you ‘may’ be free, you will sit her cat 100%. There are no words on this planet that can convince me that saying ‘Yeah, I think I’m free that day’ means I just promised to do something. That’s just… I don’t even know, it’s just not the same thing, objectively. Acting as if it is kinda gaslighting-ish.

    Also, it seems to me that Donna does not see your pet-sitting services as a kind favor you do for her and more of an obligation. Something you don’t really get to cancel/not agree to if she does not deem your reasons Good Enough. That’s a problem. I noticed that sometimes, when you keep doing someone a favor, this thing stops being seen as a kindness but more as a duty and then when you don’t wanna/cant, people feel wronged. That’s one hundred percent on them.

    And I also agree with your assessment that her language of Dramatic Strong Emotions (like ‘disturbing’) is manipulative. She can feel whatever she feels and those feelings are valid, but them being valid does not change the fact that they are inadequate to the situation – especially that there is a lot of time to solve this problem.

    I agree with others that it may be – if Donna is generally a cool lady – that this situation triggered something that she already had an issue with, like that she herself canceled her plans for sitting your cat, or something else in her life not really connected to the situation. If so, maybe when the feelings are less intense, you will be able to talk calmly and thing will go back to normal.
    But I gotta admit, to me she acted in a pretty ugly, manipulative way and was not fair to you at all.


    1. Also, just a small note: I think it would be a mistake to discuss this with her under the understanding that you agreed to pet-sit the cat and canceled. That’s agreeing to her warped idea that you actually agreed… when you didn’t! She never explicitly asked you and you are not a mind-reader.

      So any discussion about this done under the guise of ‘LW canceled’ is already conforming to her manipulation of the facts.

    2. “There are no words on this planet that can convince me that saying ‘Yeah, I think I’m free that day’ means I just promised to do something. That’s just… I don’t even know, it’s just not the same thing, objectively. Acting as if it is kinda gaslighting-ish.”

      Agreed! Also in the gaslighty column: After the LW explained, Donna did not soften her you-done-me-wrong stance and say something like, “I thought plans were firm but I can see how you thought they were looser” or even “Oh I guess we miscommunicated.” Instead she’s doubling down. The LW has acknowledged Donna’s point of view, but Donna has not acknowledged LW’s point of view at all (at least, that I can see from the letter). Not good!

      1. OK, here I seem to differ with the majority, because that sounds to me like a very common, if casual, way of saying ‘yes I can do the thing you asked’? People use it to me all the time, and I use it too. I would usually send a text of something with dates to confirm if it’s something as important as a pet, but generally, I totally would have translated that as ‘yup, I’ll do it’.

        I can see how the LW might not have meant it that way, and clearly that translation seems to vary in different social circles, and it’s a good habit to confirm more explicitly if it’s an important plan, and it’s months ahead of time so plans can change, and it was an honest miscommunication etc etc etc, so yeah, it’s a disproportionate response, but at least in my neck of the woods ‘yeah I think I’m free’ or ‘yeah, looks like I’m free’ is one of the most common ways of saying ‘yes, we’re on’ that I encounter, personally. So I don’t think there’s anything at all surprising of Donna writing it into her calendar at that point.

        1. I also would have taken that language to mean “yup, I’ll do it,” or maybe more specifically, “I will 100% do this unless I tell you otherwise, but chances are reasonably high that I’ll tell you otherwise, and also please remind me about it later.” Basically, I would take that message followed by no further communication on the subject as a yes, and my friends seem to take it that way too when I say it.

          1. Yes, this is how “I should be able to” is used in my circles. It is “I am saying yes, but I should check my calendarnin case I am forgetting something.” When I say this, I am assuming responsibility for letting the other person know if I am not free.

            It has led to some screwups (hello ADHD self and friends), and being methodical is probably the *better* approach, but I am totally on Donna’s side re: this portion — LW flaked. But it us *months* out, and even if LW had said yes and remembered the commitment, she should be able to back out. If I were in LWs shoes, I would apologize for my part in the middle standing (as opposed to doubling down on semantics), but then end the cat-sitting relationship due to very different perspectives on their levels of commitment. (FWIW, it sounds like Donna is anxious about boarding or strangers taking care if her cat, and became WAY too invested in the *perfect solution*. I would also guess she thinks her approach is universal, so your lack of concern over her current dilemma feels egregious to her. You, meanwhile, are fine with sitters or boarding, so this was only ever a convenience, not a SOLUTION.)

        2. It was my mistake, sorry. I assumed that the ‘Can you pet-sit my cat’ conversation never happened and Donna just asked about availability and assumed that if LW is available, that means she will pet-sit the cat, as she has done before. But did not confirm it explicitly. I assumed this, as this is the part of the conversation that there is proof of, everything other is just stuff Donna says happened – and to me she is not a reliable narrator and would say anything to make the LW feel guilty and cancel the trip to pet-sit the cat. But I did not make this clear in my comment and I should have.

          To be fair, LW does mention that the ‘Can you pet-sit my cat’ conversation might have taken place, so my assumption may be to harsh or unjust now when I think about it. Donna just seems like such a manipulative person than I guess it colored my reading of the letter a lot.

          I still kinda think the ‘cat-sitting’ promise never happened, but I do admit – I can’t know that. Only Donna knows that.

        3. I see what you’re saying. Makes sense. The thing that makes Donna’s behavior so weird (to those of us who think it’s gaslighty) is that she’s treating the LW’s “I should be free” comment as a blood oath (as someone else said hilariously above). There’s no indication in the letter that Donna has acknowledged that there could possibly be room for miscommunication. Even if “I think I’m free” is a common way of making plans, and Donna was not wrong to think she could put it on her calendar, it’s still just baffling that she can’t seem to see how the LW might have thought their plans were more loose.

        4. I think it’s a regional difference. In my neck of the woods that would be like saying “Yes and if something comes up I’ll tell you” with me and my friends (since I AM flaky) it means “I am free that day but please check back with me closer to said date for confirmation.”

        5. Yes, as a data point I agree with TO_Ont: To me, ‘yes I should be free’ is pretty much saying I’ll do it, and if I heard somebody else say it, I’d assume they’d do it, too — with of course much more confirmation & plans as things were actually booked, as it got closer, etc. I agree with a previous commenter that Donna probably waited to book her plans until checking with LW, and that’s why she feels hurt.

          All that said, though, LW is allowed to make a mistake and it looks like LW apologized and so the real question is: How to move forward? Donna is *not* moving forward with reality, her anxiety-brain is still freaking out about the change of plans, in ways that are more harmful to the friendship than LW’s original honest mixup. Especially, being upset about hypothetical scenarios of cancelled “confirmed” plans other than for emergency — I mean, there are wonderful opportunities that can come up that are not what woudl qualify as an emergency, but are very legitimate reasons to change plans. Also doubling-down on the “what is the definition of confirmation”, and asking LW to change plans? Not based in reality or solutions, and very out of proportion.

          I hope Donna doesn’t cancel her own fun plans — lots of people board their cats or get cat-sitters (even though it will be a bit more work to arrange), and things work out totally fine. LW, I’m sorry this friendship is in a rift, and no it’s not necessary to catsit in the future.

        6. If it’s in the context of “Can you do X at X time?”, I do see “Yes, I should be free” as agreement to doing the thing, yes. But if it’s in response to “Are you around on X day/weekend/week/etc.?”, I don’t think it carries that meaning at all! I mean, you can’t be reasonably understood as agreeing to do something if you haven’t been asked to do anything yet. In that context, I think it just means “My calendar is currently open, let me know if you want to put something on it”.

        7. Hm – I can see that use for it? But to me “yeah, I think I’m free” or “yeah, looks like I’m free” isn’t an *unmitigated* “yep, I can do that”. It’s accompanied with an unspoken “barring any changes between now and when this thing needs to happen that would make it impossible”. Especially if the thing being referred to is happening weeks or months from when the conversation is happening.

          It isn’t a blanket statement that yes, I will definitely be able to do the thing three months from now. It’s a statement that *given the information I currently have*, I believe I will be able to do the thing at that time. It’s still important for me to make sure that if circumstances change, my ability (or inability) to do the thing is updated for whoever I talked with about doing the thing.

          1. But to me “yeah, I think I’m free” or “yeah, looks like I’m free” isn’t an *unmitigated* “yep, I can do that”. It’s accompanied with an unspoken “barring any changes between now and when this thing needs to happen that would make it impossible”. Especially if the thing being referred to is happening weeks or months from when the conversation is happening.
            I think this is a really important point that hasn’t previously been brought up. Sometimes I’ll say something like “I should be free then” not because I need to check my calendar, but because I’m trying to communicate that my plans might change and they shouldn’t bank on my availability – either make a new plan now or have a plan B lined up just in case. Especially, as Dove says, MONTHS in advance, since all kinds of things can change in the interval. Sometimes people move to new cities on three months’ notice!

        8. I usually take “I think I’m free” to mean they’ll check and let me know if they’re not. A text with actual dates of the weekend (if I remember the letter correctly) and *if* they had a face to face convo about it, like Donna claims, I’d call it confirmed.

          1. Donna seems like a pretty detail oriented person, and the LW says right out that the verbal conversation sounds like something they’d do, and that they were very distracted by their own life at the time, so I’m a little disturbed that so many people are willing to accuse her of lying just because. She’s very dramatic but the suggestions she’s lying sound very much like ‘I don’t like her therefore she must be lying’.

        9. I think the disconnect I’m getting is context. To me, it seemed like the “are you free” conversation took place with no context. Like I didn’t read it as meaning the text messages said “are you available to mind my cat on x date” but just “are you free on x date?” with Donna relying on LW to infer why she was asking based on an earlier conversation (and like, if this were me you’d be VERY lucky if I made that connection, I’d be just as likely to think you were planning a house party and trying to gauge when your friends were available).

          Based on some comments and rereading it, I think some people are seeing “asked me about availability” to mean explicitly asking if LW would be available to mind her cats.

          I’m not really sure which is the accurate interpretation but on my assumption that it was the first thing, I was firmly in the “wtf that’s not a plan, how could anyone think it was?” camp, but on the second possible reading, I definitely see where you are coming from. So maybe that is why there’s such a difference in responses? Maybe not. I can’t speak for anyone else, obviously.

          Either way though, I think Donna is being disproportionate in her response, either because personal issues are making it hard for her to be kind and reasonable towards the LW or because she’s deliberately being manipulative. The word “disturbed” really stands out to me. If she were to just say she were upset or hurt that would be one thing. “Hurt” is about how you feel and acknowledges that it may not have been the other person’s intention (without implying that changes the impact, of course). “Disturbed” takes it to another level – I feel like it implies the behavior is significantly outside decent social norms.

          I’ve been trying to think of what would get me to call cancelling plans disturbing and it would have to be, like, your mum was having a heart attack and you flaked on taking her to the hospital because you thought it would be funnier to leave her instead. Something like that.

          I mean, sure different people are disturbed by different things but it’s not a word that most use or take lightly. That coupled with the pressure to change plans makes this whole thing feel kinda manipulative to me, but I’d be very glad to be wrong about that.

        10. I agree, unless Donna’s previous text didn’t mention anything at all about vacations/catsitting which OP didn’t clarify. In that case I would have been waiting or asking for a follow up about WHY I was needed on that date.

          (I still think OP is right for not wanting to accommodate Donna’s apparent need for an inflexible schedule though!! Asking to re-do a flight is pretty WTF.)

        1. I’m pretty sure she did mention dates.

          The LW writes “She then sent me a screen shot of a text exchange that happened between us several weeks ago where she inquired about my availability for the weekend in question. I replied that I “should be” available.”

          I’m pretty sure “the weekend in question” means dates.

    3. What I think also supports the interpretation of this being a bit manipulative and gaslighty is that feeling that the LW has of just not wanting to deal with this stuff any more, like she refers to it a couple of times and is surprised by it too. IME with manipulative people, the realisation that there’s something not right with the friendship/relationship comes as a feeling rather than a thought, because they’re all about the niceness and plausible deniability. Then you start thinking back to past incidents and a pattern of weird shit starts to form.

      1. Exactly. LW, do pay attention to that feeling of being all out of fucks. I’m betting this is not the very first time Donna has been entitled and obnoxious.

  32. Now you know something about Donna. Donna is the sort of person who, having gotten a hundred yeses, someone who had a reliable friend/catsitter in LW a hundred times, throws all that out the window when faced with a single no. It’s not even a fully irresponsible move in that LW gave notice that she wouldn’t be available. That’s her prerogative. The script I use in this situation is “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

    Then change your locks.

  33. We have a dog. He is small, very sweet and not high maintenance, but still requires around 3 walks a day plus loving, feeding, etc. So, more work than a cat.

    We watched my in-laws’ dog in addition to ours on multiple occasions, so I KNOW that watching ours is a disruption to a routine, requires people to be home more, etc.

    If we currently had a local person who was willing to dog-sit for us, in exchange for us dog-sitting for them, I would treasure that friend like GOLD and would never, ever get upset if we discovered they were suddenly unavailable. He’s our responsibility, and anyone willing to watch him for free is doing us a massive favor, how could I ever be mad at someone who gave me several months’ notice they were unavailable?

  34. My condolences Captain. I didn’t know Beadie had passed. I’m so sorry.

    1. She had kidney issues, and because cats are ASSHOLES, she hid them until they were past the point of treating. It came as quite a shock.

      1. I’m so sorry, Captain! That’s heartbreaking. It was always a delight to see cat pics and read cat-mentions in your posts. She was an adorable and hilarious presence.

        1. My sweetest friend for 10 years. It’s been a few months now and I am thinking about getting another cat but mostly I still just want THAT cat.

          1. Oh no. I loved seeing pics of her — she was clearly something special. I’m so sorry that she’s gone.

          2. I know that feeling. My sympathies.

            We’ve had our “new” cats for three or four years now, and they are fine cats, but I have a picture of the previous evil beast as my desktop wallpaper. We started looking for new cats when my spouse went from “I miss Julian” to saying “I want a cat.”

          3. Deep condolences, Captain. And thank you to the poem linker. And kidney disease. And feline AIDS and liver disease and other agents of feline demise. Oh, that we could eradicate all of them. 😦

          4. Oh crap; I somehow missed that part. I’m so sorry for your loss, Captain. I still miss the cat I had when I was 11-25. I have other cats. I love my other cats. But it doesn’t make me stop wanting THAT cat, even more than twenty years later, so I really understand this one.

          5. My condolences. It’s never an easy thing – and having lost our elderly girl Newt last November, a couple months shy of her 19th birthday, for the same reason, the wanting of that specific individual rings true… each one of them leaves their own specific mark on who we are.

      2. My cat did the same. We were thankfully able to do some treatment, prolonging his life another year and a half, but yeah, kidney issues are sadly common in cats. 😦

      3. My barely-8-year-old cat had that too. I caught her sleeping in the kitchen sink on a Wednesday, took her in Thursday, and by Monday her numbers were not improved by a weekend of fluids and vet food (that she refused to eat even when they wiped it on her nose). It took me YEARS to stop feeling guilty. My sincerest condolences, Cap.

      4. My previous cat Jeremy did similar. Suddenly lost weight. One week they did a checkup and he seemed fine, but next week he was thinner and they could feel the tumours in both kidneys. That was on the day after our wedding, just before leaving him to go on honeymoon 😦 He lived for just another few weeks.

        Fortunately my ex (and previous co-owner of Jeremy) was able to come over daily, give medicine and cook some fresh meat, and send text updates, but it was a horrible time.

        Captain, I empathise with your loss of Beadie. My sympathies 😦

  35. I’m so sorry, LW. I bet it was quite a shock for this to cause such a rift in your friendship. My brother and a close friend of mine are my go-tos for cat sitting, and I couldn’t imagine going of the rails like this over a scheduling misunderstanding. It would be annoying and stressful (if last minute…3 months is plenty of time to make new arrangements), but I would ask other nearby friends, hire a sitter, or board the babies. Mistakes happen, and you’ve gone above and beyond to take responsibility, apologize and make amends. You’ve done your due diligence, Fellow Cat Parent. The yarn ball’s in Donna’s court now. Enjoy your trip. 🙂

  36. It’s just occurred to me (sorry if anyone’s mentioned this already) that Donna also seems to have acted weirdly passive-aggressively about the whole thing. I mean, I’m picturing myself in the situation of ‘I thought Friend had agreed to do [favour] on X weekend, and suddenly here she is cheerfully and casually talking about [favour]-incompatible plans she has for X weekend’, and my immediate reaction would be to just say “Hey, hold up a minute! Wasn’t that the weekend you promised to do [favour]?” Probably not even in an angry way (at least, not in the situation the LW described where the consequences of the friend dropping out would actually be entirely manageable at that point and it was clear the friend wasn’t trying to be malicious), just in a “Help! There has clearly been a misunderstanding and we need to get this sorted pronto!” kind of way.

    So, this whole thing of Donna acting as though nothing had happened and then having a prolonged blowup later via remote electronic means… well, it’s giving me weird vibes.

    LW, I suspect the reason you’re getting this “I’m actually done with catsitting for Donna” reaction is because you’re also getting weird vibes, in a way you maybe can’t quite put into words but that is still warning you that this is a situation you want to back away from because of all the weirdness and unpleasantness that potentially awaits you within it. Trust that instinct.

    1. “Trust that instinct.” Yes, to everything you wrote! The bulk of the letter amounted to LW defending themselves when they didn’t think they were in the wrong, and asking for permission to be excused from Donna’s BS and act on their instinct (permission from CA, from the commenters, from the heavens, idk, it just has that feeling). Even if LW had done something truly, undeniably in the wrong and the way that Donna reacted gave them weird vibes, they should *still* trust that instict and they are *still* allowed to be “done with this.” LW, don’t exchange favors with Donna anymore. Proceed with caution.

  37. Random story about how letting friends cat-sit for you can go wrong:

    As a child, my best friend got a cat from a shelter, and the cat came down with an illness requiring medicine. My parents were going to pet-sit for her parents while they were on a week-long vacation, and my parents went over prior to get the information on how to feed the cat the meds. So the first day it’s going well, they wrap kitty in a towel and the cat fights them but they give her the meds. They return on day two and….kitty is dead. Like, stiff and totally dead. So then they had to call my friend’s mom and break the news and figure out what to do.

    The next vacation, those same friends had us pet-sit for a different cat and a gerbil. We come in on the first day and the gerbil will not wake up no matter how much we tap the glass after we put the food in. Come to find out… gerbil is dead.

    Somehow we have all still remained great friends and close families, but those situations could have turned out differently.

    1. I had to take care of a high school boyfriend’s parakeet for a week and it died 2 days in.


      But still.THE WORST.

      1. OMG I was dogsitting for a friend and it started making these horrible noises and I freaked out and called the vet. I wanted to bring the dog in, we could figure out how the heck anything was going to get paid for later, I just wanted to take care of the dog. The vet tech said that the few hours between me noticing it and them getting home wouldn’t make a difference and the dog was probably just anxious (I knew the dog, this was not an anxious noise). Well, they got home earlier than expected, I got a text about the noise he was making that I hadn’t had a chance to warn them about because I thought I’d be home when they got there, and off they went to the vet to find out he was very, very sick. Genuinely the worst dogsitting situation ever and I’ve never agreed to do it again for anybody but my roommate and that’s because I know the dog’s ENTIRE history and know a) the vet and b) what my roommate would want done. Never. Ever. Again.

        1. Yeah, I actually will not pet-sit for anybody but my best friend. I’ve had very few people ask me directly but I’m just mysteriously unavailable when people do that general “hey can anybody help out?” And this is exactly why. My BFF and I have known each other’s cats for the cat’s entire lives, they go to the same vet. We’re each other’s sounding boards for all the weird anxieties and stuff that pet owners have (oh, how many times we’ve griped about cat vomit at inconvenient times).

          Otherwise, nope, not doing it. My anxiety brain just cannot handle that pressure.

          And to be fair, I don’t ask any other friends to take care of my cat because of that. The one other friend that does help out sometimes doesn’t have her own pets, and I’ve housesat for her multiple times as a thank you instead. Houses are much less anxiety, especially if they don’t contain plants.

      2. I was once in charge of looking after a family friend’s very beloved, very elderly cat. It was a terrifying week. Nothing bad happened to the cat in the end, but the cat really put me through the wringer waking me up throughout the night for attention. I could barely sleep due to cat-anxiety. Never again.

        1. I watched a good friend’s pets while they were in Australia for a couple weeks, and again for several weeks when they went to Scotland.
          Then their older dog got very medically fragile because wow she was actually rather old. I asked to not be responsible for pet sitting because I couldn’t handle worrying about whether their fragile and ancient dog would make it or not. They were very understanding.

      3. Gah!

        In my experience, when a parakeet gets sick enough for anybody to notice, it’s almost certainly going to die. And if you’re psychic and take the bird to the vet weeks before it starts showing symptoms, chances are still pretty good that it’s going to die.

        Sorry about the sucky timing.

      4. In my story the dog lived, but still scared the hell out of me. I had just moved in to a new roommate situation (renting a room from a homeowner) and she asked me to walk her dog on a day she had to work late. She completely failed to mention that her dog’s secret name was Houdini. Things are going fine and then she does this odd little twist & turn maneuver and slips out of her (very snug) harness and runs off. It took me over an hour to catch her. After about 30 minutes of her running in and out of the street and between houses, I was completely freaking out, sure she was going to get hurt and then I’d have to move out.

    2. Oh, man! I know a couple whose dog died while they were away for a week. The friendly neighbor who was pet-sitting called to let them know and offered to bring the dog back to their house and bury it in the yard, and they took him up on it (and, I think, specified a location).

      Hearing this story, my main thought was how anxious I’d feel about never being able to repay a favor like that.

    3. I’ve never had a pet die, but I have had to rush a dog having a stroke to the emergency vet at 11pm. He was a 75-lb Samoyed. I carried him out to the car in a surge of adrenaline and got him there, where they were able to save him. I’ve also had to rush another dog to the vet when they stepped on something sharp in the yard and cut a paw badly. That’s part of the risk you take when petsitting, but I totally understand people who can’t deal with the potential stress.

    4. My husband and I cat-sat for a friend while they were away and one of their cats died whil in our care and it was honestly the worst thing. Because they couldn’t get home earlier we arranged all the cremation stuff too.

    5. I had a bit of an opposite side of things where my dad was going to watch my dog for five days while my mom and I went to Vegas. When I brought her over there he asked me “so, what’s your dollar limit if something goes wrong with her and I have to take her to the vet – what’s the cutoff before I don’t okay the treatment/surgery/whatever.” I was horrified! A very pragmatic man, my father, but not what I wanted to be thinking of just before I went on vacation. I think I responded with “JUST PHONE ME IF SOMETHING HAPPENS.”

  38. Years ago, when I freshly was going through a horrific divorce, I dazedly agreed to watch a friend’s dogs for a week (or at least, she says I did? – there was no similar screenshot confirming and we both remember this differently) and then allegedly forgot. When the time came, it turned out to be the week of a very intense work situation and about the worst possible time. I tried to back out about one month in advance, using a similar line of reasoning (very sorry, my attention to detail is bad now, I’m double booked, how can I make this right, etc.) but her reaction – like Donna’s — was so insistent and disproportionate that I did what I shouldn’t have. I caved and watched her dogs. I allowed her to make me feel bad enough that I didn’t see any other way out of it.

    That week was a nightmare. I was caring for three dogs, house sitting her plants, and working 12-13 hour days. I honestly almost even boarded my own dog during this time to make it more manageable. I got almost no sleep, ran myself into the ground, and then got almost no “thank you” when she returned.

    That friendship didn’t last because I participated in a dynamic that allowed her to steamroll my boundaries and needs. Over time, this got worse and not better.

    I’m telling this story because I agree with Cap that you need to end this arrangement now and that you should absolutely stick to your guns. Her (over)reaction is designed to wear you down to a place where it just seems easier to do what she asks than continuing to have the battle. That’s not a friendship of equals; it’s a hostage situation. She is allowed to be disappointed, to express it reasonably once, and then to take whatever time to feel her feels about it. She is not allowed to insist you cancel a trip to follow through on this, and if she thought that through she really wouldn’t ask that of someone she cares about that’s going through a tough time.

  39. It sounds like Donna has convinced herself that her cat will only survive her absence if you are personally watching them.

    That’s not OK. It puts you in a position where Donna’s ability to travel ever, for any reason, rests solely on your availability. That’s too much pressure to put on you–it’s too much pressure to put on any one person. Life happens, plans change sometimes! In this case, you accidentally double scheduled yourself (…assuming you did verbally commit to cat sitting, which, who knows, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she at least understood whatever you said as a commitment). If it wasn’t that, maybe you’d have a sister go into early labor, or a work crisis that requires travel, or the flu, or a broken-down car that won’t get you to her place, or any of a host of reasons that you might need to back out. Something will eventually come up, is the point; even when everyone is acting in good faith, sometimes shit happens and plans fall through.

    Donna needs to have a backup plan. She needs to learn that her cat will survive someone else’s care–a different friend, or a professional petsitter, or a vet tech if she decides to board them, etc. She needs to learn that even when you think plans are solidly set it’s still a good idea to have a plan B. 2 months is *plenty* of time to come up with an alternative (surely she has other friends who might be willing to catsit? or neighbors who could recommend the petsitter they use? at the bare minimum, surely she’s familiar with google). She needs to learn to think of your free catsitting as an appreciated favor, not the only possible option in the entire universe.

    Of course, you can’t make her do these things. All you can do is decide how much you want to participate. Choosing not to catsit at all anymore is an option–like the Captain said, sometimes the cheapest way to pay for things is in money. If you do decide to continue, I think it would be a good idea to back off on the frequency–say no sometimes (and don’t agree to her rescheduling her trip to fit your schedule either; part of the point is for her to learn to take no for an answer and develop backup plans, instead of pushing for what might get her a yes from you). Also, add ‘confirm in writing’ as a requirement for any future catsitting, and an explicit ‘cancellation up to 1 month (or whatever time span you find reasonable) ahead is acceptable’ policy.

    1. This. What started as a convenience for both of them has evidently turned into (on Donna’s end of things) an absolute necessity and any alternative options are completely unthinkable. And that’s just not a healthy dynamic for either of them.

    2. My friend and I have a similar cat sitting swap going on, and she’s said several times that she really would rather I take care of her cat because I’m the only one that actually can do the medication and feeding schedules for her special needs senior kitty correctly. Which is bonkers to me because it’s actually not that hard? But when I’ve been unavailable she’s tried like four other people and they’ve all messed it up somehow.

      And even then, even with all that, her answer when I say I have to check on my availability is “Okay, let me know because otherwise I have to book a spot at the boarding place and you know they fill up sometimes.” She has a specific backup in mind because it really is a terrible burden to place on somebody to say you can’t travel at all if they aren’t free to pet-sit and friends shouldn’t do that to each other.

      Plus in our case, sometimes we’re traveling together.

      1. Yeah, it’s one thing to have a preference–I prefer to travel when my roommate will be home and available to look after my cat! But I also have a local professional petsitter who I call when our schedules just mean we’re both going to be gone, and who is generally available last-minute if something comes up. It’s one thing to ask a friend for help; it’s something else entirely to require it of them, with no alternatives being acceptable!

      2. I will say I cat-sat a couple of times for a former colleague, and after the second time determined that the dude REALLY needs to stick to professional pet-sitters. He did pay me (below market-rate), but in my case, it turned into travelling rather significantly out of my way every day to adhere to a relatively complicated feeding schedule for his three cats. One of those three cats has feeding issues, and as of the second pet-sitting he essentially asked me to “isolate and watch” him eat to make sure the other two cats didn’t get at his food. He had six different foods for his three cats, each one had separate feeding portions, I was supposed to keep them from getting into each other’s food, I was supposed to remain at his house until the feeding-issues cat finished his bowl…we actually both wound up changing jobs not long after, so it became moot, but if he ever asked me again, I was going to inform him that his cats are in “you need an actual professional pet-sitter if you want this, not a well-meaning colleague who also owns cats.” It was all just waaaay too much trouble for the $15/hr or so he was giving me.

  40. I think Donna is way overreacting!! You have her plenty of notice and said next time you’d let her know immediately when you had plans and needed her help. I’d be saying “I don’t have any answers and don’t know what else to say however I’m not cancelling my plans.” The cat will cope with being boarded or having a drop in sitter

  41. Your friend’s reaction is over the top. You forgot once in years of doing this. That says you don’t have a history of being a flake. You apologzied and acknowledged exactly where in the process you messed up. That says you genuinely feel bad about the mix up and understand what you’d have to do to make sure it never happens again. You’ve tried helping her find alternate arrangements. That shows that you want to make up for your mistake. And yet she’s still angry, still expects you to find a solution, and still wants you to alter hard to rearrang plans. And plans with a lifelong friend that lives far away! That’s totally unreasonable.

    Proceed with your trip. Enjoy your visit guilt free. And I love the Captain’s script for ending this particular arrangement. Totally worth spending money on a professional sitter if it preserves the friendship. And honestly, if the friendship is lost, well, that would also be an over the top reaction that’s on her, not you!

  42. Oh, dear Captain, I am so sorry to hear that Beadie has passed away. Our condolences.

    I completely agree with The Captain and especially love her script and suggestion of taking the cat sititng out of equation.

    I volunteer in a local rescue organization and care for foster cats which has provided a very nice solution to our cat sitting problems: people in the organization LOVE pets and happily take care of each others’ pets in turn – and the organization also keeps up a list of local recommended boarding options and carers for pets.

    Miss Diane sounds like a wonderful pet sitter and a great choise and I am quite certain that the LW still has enough time to book a professional sitter.

    I do not truly get Donna’s reaction; it does sound disproportionate – and it is probably not about LW at all. I would never react like Donna if our regular cat sitter suddenly had to cancel let alone months beforehand. The dynamic of this friendship sounds quite strange indeed. I am left wondering if something is wrong in Donna’s life or if she is extra worried for her cat for some reason.

    Please pet your cat for us – and as a Dickens fan I love your nick! Tail of Two Kitties indeed.

  43. Assuming worst-case scenario – Donna is not dealing with other Big Life Issues that were behind her totally disproportionate reactions AND the friendship does not survive – you may want to prep how to deal with the fallout in your mutual friend group over this.

    I think the Captain has answered similar questions before, so the archives are probably a good resource here, but knowing how you’ll answer mutual friends when they say things like “So what happened with you and Donna…?/Donna is really upset, I think you should try to work it out/Donna said you did X and I’m annoyed at you on her behalf” could help. My personal suggestions:

    “You know, it was a misunderstanding, the details are boring, I’d rather not get into it, tell me about ”
    “Yeah, it’s sad, but it’s the way things are right now. Thanks for your concern!”
    “Donna said that, huh. So anyway “

  44. Your reaction of being Over This Drama is the exact same one I would be having. I guess I would understand being mildly annoyed, but you gave her plenty of notice and she has so much time to get this figured out. Donna literally has months to find an alternate sitter, and honestly it’s probably good that she’s now forced to do that anyway. If you ever do go back to cat-sitting for each other, then she isn’t solely beholden to your availability when she needs to go out of town – she will have other options! It sounds like Donna has a pretty rigid set of rules that define how agreements work, and isn’t super flexible when things need to change even when there’s plenty of time to make alternate arrangements. However, it’s not really your job to fix that, especially when she has so much time to find another sitter!

  45. Donna is treating you like she’s your boss, not your friend, and she’s not even play acting a very good boss. Let’s work out what confirmation means to you so we can avoid this in the future? Can you change your travel? Tell me your travel plans so maybe you can work some cat sitting into your life in the time right before or after you travel? And presumably, given that, be the person handling getting the cat to and from whatever other boarding is necessary? Come on.

    You should decide your own openness to confrontation, but I think there’s a case to be made for simply telling Donna that you think in the future you should each handle your own cat sitting arrangements because you clearly have very different ideas of what this arrangement is. I don’t think she’ll take it well; you did a variant on that when you told her that you would have made these travel plans and let her know that you’d be unavailable even if you’d have remembered (assuming there really ever was something to remember). Her response was to nightmare boss it up, so it might not be any better when you “resign.” But it might be best to make it clear to her – and see what she does – that this is not a way you’re going to interact with a friend/offer of help.

    1. Agreed. I can’t quite articulate why, because using one’s words and sorting out differing communication styles is a good thing, but a request to “define what ‘confirmation’ means” strikes me as really condescending and icky.

      The rest of the bad-boss behavior (can you change your travel, can you care for the cat part of the time) irks me for the more obvious reason that “no” is a complete sentence, not the beginning of a negotiation!

  46. I kind of think that three months out is way too long to except a friend to hold a date to do something like pet-sit. A friend of mine uses the phrase “insurmountable opportunities” to describe how they find up overscheduling themselves, but I think it also applies here. So many great opportunities can come along in three months (like the opportunity to spend a weekend with a close out-of-town friend) that I just don’t see it as reasonable to commit to being home for a low-key favor or to expect that commitment from someone. I very much like to have things planned out in detail, but there’s just too much world for “cat-sit several months from now” to be set in stone.

    1. I agree, though I can see how someone who thinks only an emergency is an acceptable reason to back out of petsitting plans wouldn’t.

      1. Yeah, something I’ve learned from the CA comments is that, even though I seem to be fine at making friends where I am, there are a lot of people I just wouldn’t be compatible with. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because their needs and mine really don’t mesh.

    2. I love “insurmountable opportunities”! Yes, it should be a *happy* thing between friends, if one of you screwed up the dates but you chat often enough that the conflict was caught *months* before the pets needed sitting. Expecting me to hold a date as inviolable just to give you free petsitting would definitely not work for me.

  47. (apologies if this comes in twice; I had some confusion with WordPress login)

    OP, you are being completely reasonable. Donna is being unreasonable.

    That said, I want to share what I would be thinking if I were in Donna’s shoes and reacted like she did, because I could imagine doing so (to some extent) back in my less emotionally stable days. If it were me, the problem wouldn’t be that you backed out of a cat-sitting agreement, it would be that you forgot about the agreement (yes, even if it was a casual and somewhat tentatively-worded agreement) and made a different plan and didn’t tell me until I pointed it out. If you had forgotten about the cat-sitting, made plans with Vivian, and then weeks later remembered about the cat-sitting and told me “oh by the way, sorry, I actually can’t cat-sit anymore that weekend,” I would have completely understood and been fine and made another plan. But if you’d forgotten, made the other plans, and then weeks later *I* found out you weren’t going to be able to cat-sit after all but hadn’t told me, that’s when I would start thinking “wait, this whole time, I’ve been logistically and emotionally planning around you being able to cat-sit, as we discussed, and you have been living in a different reality where that’s not the case and haven’t told me even though we’ve been hanging out and chatting? What if your trip hadn’t come up? Would you have ever told me? Can I trust anything you say? How can I make a plan if everything is always up in the air and I don’t even know whether I’ll be told if things change??????”

    ….obviously that is anxiety-brain talking, and I’d rather have rational-brain talking, but I haven’t always been so lucky. Anxiety-brain would at this point try to regain some control of things with questions like “what is your definition of confirmation?” and “what are your travel plans EXACTLY” even if those are not necessarily helpful and not at all appropriate.

    Anyway, this may or may not be related to what’s going on in Donna’s mind, and either way it’s not your job to coddle her around it! I only offer it up to address the various “I don’t understand Donna’s reaction at all” responses.

    1. Thanks for this. Unfortunately, I understand this part of Donna’s reaction entirely too well, and have probably subjected friends and boyfriend’s to it. (The part about emotionally and logistically planning, only to discover the other person hasn’t, and kinda doesn’t care? Such a trigger for my anxiety brain.)

      So, yeah. Donna is entirely wrong, but doesn’t seem unfathomable.

      Also, OP “seems more outraged than hurt” is confusing to me, because outrage is often how hurt manifests? And outrage+trying to pin everything down and regain control of everything sounds like hurt + anxiety to me.

  48. “She said that now, because of all this, she may not be able to go on her trip to see her dearest friends.”

    This is the heart of the matter. She’s acting like this is a big betrayal because, in her mind, it has large consequences for her.

    It sounds like her concerns for her cat are out-sized and unhealthy. She’s convinced herself that her whole vacation hinges on the LW’s ability to care for Fluffy. What would be a run-of-the-mill inconvenience for someone is a disaster for her.

    Fluffy will be okay with a different pet sitter. It’s not the LW’s job to accommodate her friend’s irrational concerns. The LW isn’t obligated to prioritize Fluffy over her own friends and loved ones.

    The Captain’s script – ” I can’t commit to a schedule the way a professional sitter or vet that offers boarding can” – is spot-on. The LW isn’t obligated to give up her time and priorities just because her friend thinks that she needs it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends the friendship, but the LW doesn’t really have much of a choice. If being an on-demand cat sitter is a condition of this friendship, she may be better off without it, unfortunately.

    1. I agree that this is at the heart of it (and also the biggest reason LW should end catsitting entirely with Donna).

  49. Ohhh this is close to home.

    I lost a friendship a while back because I was not willing to cancel evening plans I had made months in advance to do a dog introduction with 2 days notice. There was so much screaming and so many insults and I realized that she pretty much had no boundaries and couldn’t hear ‘no’. 5 years of friendship was gone in about a half hour phone call.

    LW, you are being entirely reasonable and should trust your instincts about not wanting to catsit for this person again. I think the Captain’s scripts are great. Several other posters have posted some speculation about why she may have reacted so disproportionately, but its not your fault or responsibility to sort that out.

  50. To me it reads as if Donna is anxious about the situation and making you deal with it. She’s seeing the situation with only two solutions a) you pet sit or b) she cancels her trip. This false decision is the only thing that makes her reaction understandable to me*.

    That… isn’t reasonable. If she feels that anxious about leaving her cat with anyone besides a single person then she can either a) never leave her cat or b) not have a cat. Even that isn’t really a solution since I somehow believe that if it wasn’t about the cat her anxiety would be manifesting around something else.

    *The comment that she has cancelled her own trips to pet-sit in the past also makes sense.

    1. I agree. It’s tough on Donna if she feels like that, but ultimately this isn’t the LW’s responsibility to deal with. If Donna needs a consistent solution for her cat, and especially if Donna has felt obliged to cat sit to the extent she has silently cancelled her own plans, then a professional boarder or pet sitting arrangement would be much better for her in the long run, because it offers a stability that LW cannot.

  51. It sounds like Donna has some issues of her own to work through. It sounds like she needs things to be familiar and to be the specific way that she feels safe with, and she struggles to deal with change. I sympathize but she can’t put the full responsibility of this on you. As much as I understand cats don’t like change, they handle it much better when we don’t project our own anxieties on to them.

    There’s not much you can do here, but you can at least know that protecting Donna from uncomfortable feelings is not your responsibility.

  52. My best friend and I have basically the exact same kind of arrangement for cat sitting. Which is slightly complicated by the fact that both our kitties are kind of “special needs” so finding alternate cat sitters who can accommodate is difficult.

    A few years back, she had to leave town very suddenly because her grandmother was very ill and in the hospital. I told her of course her cats would be well cared for, go be with family, leave right away.

    The day after her grandmother passed away, my dad suddenly died. I was in my car and on my way out of town within an hour, so both of us were coordinating pet care for both our cats while we weren’t in town, couldn’t easily pass on keys to people, and basically it was a mess. But it was a survivable mess because we both have always had vague backup ideas in case the other couldn’t help that weekend, even though we never like using the backups. We know to always have a second choice because life does that to you.

    The fact that your friend didn’t understand this sort of implicit part of a cat sitting arrangement (that it doesn’t always work out because that’s life) is on her I think. Her reaction is outsized for the problem, so I do wonder if she’s using this as a place to take out frustrations about something else (another situation or someone else entirely) but that’s not your issue to solve.

  53. Good lord I was exhausted by the time I had read the headline and scrolled down without even reading to the end of your letter (to see if there was a previous post I’d missed).

    This is not a criticism of your writing but rather how exhausting ridiculous this whole thing is. There is literally no reasonable situation in the world in regards to the impact a cat has on a friendship that should take 19 paragraphs to explain. This is like 17 more paragraphs of drama than I have energy for in relation to any cat/friendship dynamic I have ever encountered.

    tl;dr – Donna sounds like a looooooot of work right now, for kind of no discernible reason? I am on Team ‘Don’t Do Her Anymore Favours If You Have The Slightest Desire Not To And Think About Whether You Want To Wind That Friendship Right Back.”

  54. What would Donna have done if LW had said from the start that she wasn’t available on the days in question? Wouldn’t she be in the same boat as to being able to see her dearest friends? It sounds like Donna expects LW to be available to Donna all the time immediately, or like Donna sees the favors she does LW as more of a favor than what LW does for Donna.

    But more than that, I’m having trouble with the idea that Donna is letting one bad experience negate all the positive ones. I had a friend I used to meet for lunch with regularly (before she died way too young of breast cancer). One time she called me after I’d missed a lunch date. That is completely missed it, left her waiting for me in a restaurant while I stood her up altogether. I remembered making the appointment after her call, but before that I’d completely forgotten. I knew I’d hate it if someone did that to me. I began groveling in apology and asking what I could do to make it up to her. She accepted my apology, and when I continued apologizing, reminded me that we had a history, that it’s not like I did that to her on the first meeting. For her, 20+ enjoyable lunches made up for 1 missed one. I learned a lot from her that day. Not that it’s okay to flake out on friends, but that the whole friendship has to be looked at in totality. It would not have served her to get so angry (even if at that moment I felt like I deserved it) that she gave up on me. She explained that her accepting my apology and simply making a new lunch date was something she did for herself as much as she did for me. (And I didn’t make that mistake again.)

    Thus Donna. Agreeing to catsit, then forgetting that you agreed to catsit (if firm agreement is really what happened), then giving plenty of notice that you’re not available to catsit, I don’t see that as nearly as bad as leaving someone waiting in a restaurant for a lunch without showing. And now that Donna’s being so hard-assed about it, what exactly does she plan to do? She’s picked a fight with LW making it impossible for LW to catsit not just for the weekend she’ll be visiting Vivian but forever after. How is this good for Donna? Donna hasn’t thought this through.

  55. I don’t want to be *that person* but I am a CAT person (I have 5, and have had between 4 & six cats for decades), and unless there is some medical issue (diabetes?) I don’t see why cats need a sitter for a weekend. Lots of food & water, extra sand in the litter box, and they pretty much take care of themselves. It’s one of their finest qualities!

    1. I get a catsitter if I’m going to be gone for more than ~18 hours, because my cat eats wet food and it just doesn’t stay good that long once it’s open. But a quick ‘stop in, open new food, leave’ visit can be done by literally anyone who I would actually trust to stop by–I don’t get the stress over it!!

  56. Captain – our condolences. For such small creatures cats take up a great deal of space in our hearts. Beadie was adorable.

  57. Donna lost me when she sent a screenshot of a text exchange, and tried very hard to use it as exhibit A rather than worked with you on the here and now flexible, friendly negotiation.

    1. Yep, and not even a screenshot of Very Definite Plans, but rather vague “I’ll probably be free then/great+new subject” that Donna obviously thought was set in stone. I’m giving her serious side-eye from over here.

  58. So, the consequence to LW not pet-sitting is she won’t get to see her dearest friends… But the consequence for LW if she gives Donna what she wants is that she won’t see her dear friend Vivian. Somehow Donna does not see that both events are of similar importance to each of them. Donna’s plan is not more imortant than LW’s plans but in Donna’s world it it much more important. Disappointment in a schedule conflict is not a reason to throw a tantrum, but Donna is going to Donna.

    Also, according to the screenshot, LW didn’t say she *would* be free she said she *should* be free, that implies things are not set in stone, and Donna needs to not make her plans around shoulds but woulds.

    Maybe it’s the way I was raised – actually it is, I’m about to directly quote my mother here – always say no first, then check if you can do the thing and if it suits you to do the thing and you can change your no to a yes very easily, because it’s harder to turn a yes into a no. This was Mum’s introvert advice but it works for SO many things (bosses who ask you to swap shifts, last minute parties/peopling events, weddings/communions/confirmations/wakes, helping someone move, petsitting, doing housework for someone else, doing someone a favour of some sort, so many things that you might not want to do or that you might, but might not work out well for you in the long run). It is advice that changed my life. Maybe next time Donna asks you to cat-sit, LW, you tell her no, or that you’ll have to check your diary and come back to her, although I wonder if she’ll find someone else after this.

    Jedi hugs to you, Captain, kitties are precious and so full of love, Beadie is still loving you, just not right in front of you ♥

  59. Oh hey, I have relevant experience!

    In March, I asked my friends (who are roommates) who watched my dog last time if they could watch him again this July.

    In April, I found out for reasons that they would not be able to.

    Going on vacation at all is a strain on my budget (even though I’m staying with people and camping nearly the whole time), so I was pretty bummed for myself, but…

    I’m still happy Friend A is getting to visit his elderly grandparents and his father!
    I’m very sad and 0% offended by Friend B, whose elderly dog is having an ongoing health issue that would make it hard for her to watch my dog too. (At least without her roommate there.)

    I priced out some boarders (like I said, bummer) and eventually found a solution. I literally cannot imagine being mad at my two friends over this.

    (Also, send good thoughts to Tiny Old Lady dog. May she last as long as she can comfortably, and cross the bridge with ease when it’s time.)(Good thoughts to the Captain, too, it’s so hard.)

  60. I dogsit as a side hustle and any gigs I get go into my “brains,” my paper engagement book, along with doctor visits and erratic classes and pretty much everything that I do each day. When I book a job, I write it down right away, because otherwise I either panic about remembering or it gets stuck in my head soI keep thinking about it, and I’d rather save my brain cells for squeeing over puppy vids.

    For me, an engagement for dogsitting is set in stone once I confirm it- but I’m getting paid. And if it’s not in the book, it’s not happening. I have had the occasional cancellation last minute, and it was annoying because I missed out on another job. But that’s the breaks. You gave Donna months to find someone when your tentative yes turned into a no, and her response was to parse what “confirmation” means so she can manipulate you into doing what she wants. That is not cool. I would be willing to lose a client who behaved like this.

  61. Captain I’m sorry for your loss 😦 I hope Beadie is munching all the cat grass in kitty heaven! ❤

    LW I think your reaction is spot on. I would be 1000% done too with a friend who caused this much drama over an honest mistake. Especially since she has months to fix it!

    It would be reasonable for her to feel a bit annoyed, but this level of entitlement and shaming is just baffling.

    I had a local friend lined up to help look after my cat for my upcoming trip, but then she had to move out of her place and the new place she found is too far away to reasonably expect her to come to my place every day to feed kitty. It was disappointing sure, but life happens, so I got another friend to help out.

    I think you’re totally justified in being done with this and with her. And yes, definitely never cat sit swap again!

  62. I have some sympathy for Donna; as someone with severe anxiety and a delicate cat (health-wise) I’d be pretty upset to know that someone I considered reliable turned out to think that if a better offer comes through, she’ll flake last minute. But that’s just about OP’s admission that she would cancel last minute and doesn’t really reflect the first issue. I think Donna overreacted there, but was stressed and then extra upset to know OP might back out suddenly in the future, and I do have empathy for Donna feeling upset by that because I would too.

    1. Sympathy for Donna is totally appropriate, as she is obviously distressed. But I didn’t see the LW admit or even imply that they would cancel last-minute. They said that even if they’d had cat-sitting on the calendar, when the opportunity for this trip came up they would have taken it, but that’s with months of notice. They also said that they always check in about keys and such about two weeks before one of them leaves, so that would be the time when any totally-forgotten commitments (or “commitments”) would be discovered – and at least in my experience of engaging pet-sitters, two weeks is not last-minute. The only other reference I see LW make to possibly not following through on cat-sitting is in the case of spontaneous combustion, which it doesn’t seem fair to call “flak[ing] last minute!”

      1. I don’t mean in this specific instance; I think Donna is (understandably) unsettled by the LW’s admission that in any circumstance she would happily cancel last minute to do something else. That would throw me off, too, especially if I was already stressed out.

        1. Like Bex, I do not see that the LW “admitted” that at all. The closest thing they said was “I never thought these were ever 100% set-in-stone plans until we started approaching the window of time where it would be near impossible to find other accommodations,” which to me says that once it got anywhere near the last minute, LW would not in fact cancel.

    2. I think a person who is worried about a particular plan and needs certainty (totally understandable) has an obligation to be a more proactive communicator than Donna has been.

      When I have something that’s important for me, I push for a more explicit yes and make sure we’re both definitely on the same page (for example: a person agreeing to move in with me – if they’re definite I will stop looking for another housemate and be left in the lurch badly if they change their mind)

      Clear and proactive communication is the anxious person’s best friend!

      Under circumstances where pushing might make it look like I don’t trust them, I say that it’s about my anxiety and getting a quick reassurance.

    3. Flaking last minute — that’s like, the day before or the day of. Several months ahead of time is SO not last-minute.

      1. Agreed. It’s June now, the trip isn’t until the fall, so it’s not like Donna has no chance to find another catsitter. And I wouldn’t call it flaking either, because the LW isn’t just blowing Donna off at the eleventh hour with no word. She’s told her well in advance that she’s got something else going on that weekend.

  63. I don’t have much to add except to agree with the other commenters that your vague I can probably do it was not an oath signed in blood, and Donna is completely overreacting. Even if you had a conversation and agreed to do it plans change and sometimes people forget about committments. Especially so far out this shouldn’t be a big deal. IDK why Donna is acting like this, I have had friends act strange like this out of the blue in ways that ended our friendships and my only explanation is that they wanted out of the friendship somehow and chose something small to have a fit about. I would say give Donna what she apparently wants and exit the friendship. At this point you don’t really owe her anything.

    1. I can relate to “wanted out of the friendship somehow and chose something small to have a fit about.” I’ve ended a couple of friendships where bigger issues bothered me that the other person brushed aside when I addressed them, so the eventual last straw for me was something relatively innocuous. I don’t get that from Donna, though; it seems more like she thought catsitting was always set in stone. Or she’s a drama queen and this is the first time her drama has involved the LW.

  64. This has also made me realise that I need a backup plan for my kitty, in case none of my friends can look after her next time.

    Anyone have a great pet sitter they can recommend in the Western suburbs of Melbourne Australia? 🙂

    1. No Australia advice, but my backup plan for my cat is a local dogwalking/petsitting company that I found via googling. Since they’re a professional company (not a single person who might get sick, be on vacation, etc., and not doing it as a favor to me), I feel confident in their reliability. And since they’ve catsat a couple times for me now, they know that my boy is a quick visit (he won’t socialize with them, so it’s just food, water, scoop litter), so they’re generally willing to squeeze us in even if it’s a last-minute request. They’re not my first choice because I’d rather have someone my cat knows and is comfortable hanging out with a bit, but hey, plan B doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to cover the basics.

      1. Yeah, I am also going to research online for businesses in my area, but I’d feel so much more comfortable letting a complete stranger into my house if they came recommended by someone I trust 🙂 maybe I could still choose one as a plan C if I can’t find any personal recommendations!

    2. Have you asked your vet for recommendations? My vet does boarding, but I know that they also have a list of a handful of local pet sitters that their patients have used. Plus there’s the possibility that one of the vet techs might pet sit for extra money or something.

    3. Hi, Kitty. My contact in Melbourne has used Lonely Pets in the past. And at the time she had four cats, so seems likely Lonely Pets will be able to handle whatever your cat throws at them. 😛

    4. I’m based out of New South Wales, but I’ve heard this organisation recommended a lot, maybe they either would have someone in the area or be able to point you in the right direction of someone?

  65. I usually try not to echo other commenters but in this case I think it’s worth it because the more voices we have telling the LW that they are, in fact, BEING COMPLETELY REASONABLE, the better.

    LW, nowhere in the text conversation did Donna say the words “Can you watch my cat?”. It’s perfectly natural for confirmation to look something like “an actual request was uttered, for real.” Even giving her the benefit of the doubt, that she asked in person and you said yes then, the dates were never texted to you and also even if you HAD written the dates on your calendar, you’re allowed to have a change of plans. For whatever reason, when it’s this far away. For whatever reason whenever, honestly, because being a pet owner means having back-up plans or adapting to changing circumstances.

    The Captain has lots of really good advice for making friends on this site, and if Donna continues to berate you, please accept a random stranger’s permission to dump her and make use of it.

  66. Has anyone besides LW ever catsit for Donna? Not that it changes much, but I find myself wondering if Donna has particular anxieties around her cat, to the point that she feels like she can’t trust anyone but the LW to care for said cat. (In my experience, people can get *weird* about their pets. And I say this as a weird Cat Lady.) It doesn’t make her response reasonable, but it might explain why she’s responded with such disproportionate anger. Maybe it’s nothing at all to do with you, LW, or anyone’s definition of “plans.” Maybe this is more her trying to make you responsible for her feelings of panic. She doesn’t sound like she’s would be at a place to acknowledge this, even if it were the case. But it might help LW to realize this isn’t their fault.

  67. I’m sorry to hear you lost your cat. It’s always hard when that happens. I hope another cat shows up soon (or not, if that is what you want).

  68. Would it be appropriate to set up a thread in the CA forums for people looking for a pet sitter or willing to care for others’ pets? I know that’s not the purpose of this site, but I think many people here have lots of love to give and if they are so inclined (for free or at cost) it might be a nice resource for those who might network through this site to find a sitter or offer services.

    As for the LW, both you guys are awesome for cat sitting for free. I paid my sitter (who moved away recently, sadly) $20/day to come over twice and do the expected stuff plus playtime. I was fortunate that she only lived 200 ft down the street and that her house was so noisy (ha!) that she loved the quiet of my place and would hang out longer. She was kind enough to do some extra cleaning for me while I was gone. All really, really appreciated, and when she left I gave her a bear hug to last the ages.

  69. LW, another thing that struck me is that Donna isn’t showing any empathy for your life being a giant fire. If I have a normally reliable friend and they have a Very Bad Month and forget they committed to something, I’ll make allowances.

  70. Adding my voice to the chorus of, “What would she do if the OP had a family emergency/fell deathly ill some weekend and was unable to care for Kitty?” Backup plans are always a good idea.

    When I lived in Seattle an upstairs neighbor paid me $20 to check on her cat for a weekend: make sure the water dish was OK, check the food level and also just spend a little time there. I took a book up there four times that weekend, and spent about 45 minutes each time petting the cat, tossing toys and, ultimately, reading while the cat sat next to me and purred. Peeled a couple of hairballs off the carpet, too. #joysofcatdom

    I enjoyed it so much that I almost felt weird taking the money, so I proposed an alternate scenario: I’d watch the cat if she would give the $20 she would have paid me to the Feeding America charity or to a local food bank. She was delighted, since boarding cost a lot more and this way the cat got to be on her own turf. So if you are pet-free, as I was, and view pet-sitting as more like Timeshare Kitty (or Pup), I would heartily recommend this setup. You get to play with pets and someone else benefits from the money.

    (Just FYI: I am not the Donna who is the OP’s friend/maybe former friend.)

  71. Count me as another vote for “Donna is overreacting here.” Just as a comparison, years ago a friend of mine agreed to cat-sit for a week while I went out of town. The plan had been in place for at least a month. Literally an hour before he was due to come pick up my cat, he called and apologized, saying that he wouldn’t be able to do it because *his girlfriend didn’t feel comfortable with him cat-sitting for another woman* and he couldn’t go against her wishes. My flight was the next morning, so I had to scramble to find another sitter at 6pm on a Friday; luckily, I found one and my cat remains happy and healthy to this day. That’s the kind of circumstance that I think might warrant the kind of whinging you’re getting from Donna.

    For the record, I am no longer friends with that guy. After the cat-sitting incident he stopped initiating contact (probably embarrassed) and I was pissed off enough to let the friendship die a natural death.

  72. I notice several people saying that the friend probably sacrificed her plans to catsit in the past so her anger might have stemmed from her wanting to receive equal treatment. I just wanted to say that, in my experience, ironically, the people who are most outraged when I say no to meeting one of their needs are the ones who I do a ton of things for but are not available the few times I ask for some support because…their needs. And yes, I am guilty of overextending myself and then being resentful when I feel it is not reciprocated. So I guess I’m saying I’m one of those people! Also ironic! But…the difference is…I do not demand that the other person do what I ask, I don’t guilt trip them, I listen to their point of view, etc. etc. or I say little about it and learn from the experience. Lately I have less and less friends like that and my life is better. I hate to have to count how much I do for others, but because I can overdo it with certain types of people, I need to use my rational brain to evaluate things instead of just my emotions. I’d rather feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for others than angry because of lack of reciprocity.

  73. Captain, I am so sorry about your cat and glad you took the space to memorialize her. LW, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS LETTER. This is somehow exactly what I needed to read. I’m going through some tough personal stuff at the moment and I just needed to hear about some friend drama plus cats.

    LW my emotional reaction to your account mirrors yours. I, too, am done with donna. May you find less fraught cat-care arrangements in the future.

  74. If Donna thinks it’s no big deal to change travel plans AND that the LW is the only person who could possibly care for her cat…why can’t Donna change *her* plans?

  75. All the Captain’s points are good ones, and I do think that Donna is overreacting. But I also wonder if a difference between the cats themselves may be part of *why* Donna is overreacting. If Donna has a particularly anxious or stranger-averse cat, or one who gets ill easily when exposed to stress or other felines, or any of a bunch of other issues, it can be really difficult to just roll with the loss of one’s regular sitter, temporarily or permanently. She may have a different reaction to the prospect of boarding or using a hired stranger to sit for her cat than you do, LW, because her cat would handle that experience much less well than yours would. Or possibly, she’s the one who handles the idea less well; I can’t tell whether her anxiety comes from a true assessment that a stranger would be unsafe for her cat, or a false one, but either way it looks as though that’s what she believes about her particular cat. It isn’t what you believe about yours, which makes it easier for you to take changes of plans comfortably.

    To be totally clear, LW, none of this binds YOU to the duty of permanent on-call cat sitter in the least!! The fact that Donna may have good reason to be genuinely anxious about how she’s going to find a way to take care of her kitty — if, indeed, she does have such reason — still doesn’t give her the right to offload that problem onto *you*. It’s HER cat. You’re only responsible for looking after it if you’ve committed explicitly to doing so, and even that is something you should be able to change with plenty of warning.

    What it does mean, however, is that 1) Donna may be showing anger because she’s scared, and 2) suggesting that you end the cat sitting exchange permanently may come across to Donna as “threatening to take her only solution away forever because she told you she was upset that you’d taken it away once.” That’s not a fair way to look at it, but it’s a likely one, and you should probably be prepared for the spontaneous combustion of your friendship if you do that, because she’s likely to treat it as a major threat — from her perspective, you’re effectively saying, “you’ll never be able to go out of town without risking your cat’s safety again!” — and freak out.

    This is not fair of her. This is not reasonable of her. And ultimately, this is not your problem unless you want it to be. If you’re done with the cat sitting exchange and you’re willing to risk the end of your friendship to extract yourself from it, that is 100% a choice you get to make. You are the boss of you, and if you don’t wanna cat sit for Donna anymore, you certainly have no obligation to.

    But you should go in knowing that it’s likely to cause a major blowup, based on what Donna has already shown. Because it’s sure looking like either Donna’s cat is exceptionally difficult to board safely, or else Donna *thinks* her cat is exceptionally difficult to board safely. And either way, she’s very likely to get even more scared-angry at your decision to end the cat-sitting arrangement altogether than she already was.

    1. If Donna were the one asking for advice, I would point out to her that most if not all professional pet-sitters will insist on a visit to the home while you’re there, to meet the cats, and talk about what they need.. That visit also means the cat won’t be dealing with a complete stranger, she’ll be dealing with someone who she met while her person was there. The person I hired, and the friend I have (in another part of the country) who does this full-time as a business are also bonded, so there’s some protection if she’s worried about a stranger stealing her stuff

      The couple of times I’ve had an informal cat-sitting arrangement, the person cat-sitting also came and met the cat first. Once I was the cat-sitter: I would feed the animals, then make a cup of tea, and sit on a comfy chair with a book for a while so the cat could have some attention. The other time, the cat-sitter was a neighbor whose child loved cats and whose husband was allergic, so their visit to my apartment was part cat-sitting and part play date for the child and the cats. (Martha also brought her daughter with her to visit a couple of times while we weren’t traveling: I talked to her, and the child played with the cats.)

      1. Yeah, I know that cat-sitters have usually met the cat at least once. But I also know that, for example, my parents don’t go away when their regular cat-sitter isn’t available. This is because their cat gets stressed when left with somebody she doesn’t know really, really well… and when their cat gets stressed, she starts licking compulsively. She licks until she’s worn a bald patch, and then until she’s work a hole in herself, and she has done her body serious damage that way. She takes anti-anxiety medication even when it’s the regular sitter looking after her, but even with the medicine she can’t tolerate anyone else. So they just don’t travel when she isn’t available.

        The thing is, THEY accommodate themself to HER schedule because of their cat’s needs. They do not expect her to accommodate THEIR schedule by being around whenever they feel like going away. And this is a professional anyway; they certainly wouldn’t ask a friend to be available whenever they wanted to go away!

        The bottom line, as I see it, is that it might be reasonable to consider a change in sitters to be a problem; something which can’t be done easily or on the fly, depending on that particular cat. It is NOT reasonable to dump this problem off on a friend who never asked for it. It’s the cat owner’s problem, if it is one at all, and she should be the one who has to solve it… even if that means not going away until she can acclimate the cat to a new sitter.

  76. There was definitely some miscommunication here, but I don’t think LW did anything wrong. If a friend asked me several weeks in advance whether I’d be available to do something for them on X date and I said “I should be available then”, the word “should” should clue them in that it’s a TENTATIVE plan that would need to be confirmed closer to the date in question because a) I don’t have a crystal ball and b) they’re not paying me. No matter what Donna may think, not a pact signed in blood!

    I wonder if Donna is simply too cheap to hire a cat sitter, or if she has an entitlement problem.

  77. LW, this behavior from Donna reminds me of my mother, who has untreated mental health problems including a lot of anxiety and complicated feelings about taking responsibility. She used to have a cat, let’s call her Mimi, one of the cats I grew up with. She was my mother’s best friend in many ways and a great support, but she passed away a few years ago. My mother has been missing Mimi a lot and her mental health is worse too, without a purring little friend. We’ve been talking sometimes about maybe another cat could move in. She would like that, and sometimes she hears about cats who need a new home and she would like to take them in. The thing that always comes up, though, is the cat sitting. She wishes she could rely on her grown children to cat sit, but we all live in different cities (and even if we didn’t we wouldn’t always be available, just like you LW). She tells us how when she had Mimi she often felt stuck, that she couldn’t go anywhere and that since she can’t rely on us for cat sitting she can’t get a new cat. I’ve tried to suggest paid cat sitters and showed her some local resources. She didn’t say much about it, but probably it’s not an option for her because she has a hard time letting people into her home, and boarding is too expensive. I guess it’s for the best that she doesn’t get a new cat, given the situation, but I wish her the company and cuddles.

    If I had been in a similar situation with my mom she might have reacted similarly to Donna. Not as confrontational, but she would have made sure I felt really guilty and she would talk about how now she couldn’t go on her trip. I can even recognize my old before-therapy self in what Donna might be doing – taking out her disappointment in herself, for failing to actually nail down the cat sitting, on her friend. Sometimes people who are not in a good headspace have trouble taking responsibility for their own failings and rewrite the history to suit them better and place the blame outside themselves, because they can’t bear feeling even worse about themselves. I know I have done that, and it’s not very nice if you put that on someone else. Maybe you did have that talk about cat sitting for her when she was going to see her friends. Maybe you told her “sure I’ll watch your cat, let me just check my calendar ” and then she texted you later to check your availability that weekend and when you said you “should be available” she took that as a confirmation. She might know deep down that you didn’t have a really confirmed cat sitting plan and either way it’s ok to change plans, but she can’t really deal with it and changes the story in her head to place the blame outside herself.

    Now, I don’t know anything about your friend, but from her reaction it sounds like maybe all is not well with her and it comes out in this situation. I know suggesting something is up (and especially suggesting therapy in that case) can be really fraught, but maybe, if the situation allows it some gentle questions might be helpful. I’m not great with scripts, but maybe something like “this isn’t like you, are you ok?”. I hope it all works out.

    Captain, I’m so sorry to hear about Beadie. She seemed like a great little cat and though I’ve never met her it’s been nice to know her through your pictures and little texts. My condolences.

  78. I don’t blame Donna for being annoyed, but wow, she needs a little perspective.

    On a related note, we need a name for that thing when you feel bad about something you’ve done wrong, but you don’t feel as bad as the person you’ve wronged wants you to feel, and the more they want you to feel bad, the less bad you feel.

    1. I feel confident there is a German word for this feeling that I don’t know. They have all the best words for hard to describe feelings.

    2. I call that “Turning down an invitation to a guilt trip.” Not very pithy though. 🙂 Something shorter would be great.

  79. OP, I’m so glad you saw your “friend”’a manipulative bullshit for what it was. For her to actually expect you to change your travel plans??? Big nope. I would bet she’s done other things like this. You deserve better!

  80. In no way do I think LW is responsible for finding Donna a pet sitter, but I wanted to echo what other people have mentioned: call your vet’s office! Vet techs totally do this as a sideline and they are great with sick pets!

    Also, my own (slight) dog sitting horror story: I used to dog sit for a professor who I think was very frugal in nature. He decided to turn his house’s heat off since he wouldn’t be home (in Pennsylvania in November so not terrible but still cold). He also wanted me to stay overnight (but apparently I didn’t need heat?). So I found a billion blankets in the closet and spooned with a somewhat smelly golden retriever but everyone survived. I would have turned on the heat but it requiring a pilot light and was beyond my skill set… ah what poor grad students will do…

  81. I’m hopelessly devoted my my two cats and Donna is a whack job. This merits a few minutes of mild annoyance *at most*, and then it should be let go and she should find other accommodations, which she should have on file, anyway, because stuff happens and responsible pet owners have backup plans. I board my cats. I’ve used the same kennel for decades and I know they’re good. My cats don’t love it but I feel better knowing that if the house burns down or is broken into, they won’t be in it. If they get sick, the kennel has enough experienced staff to wrangle them to the vet’s (one in particular is a handful), which is something my friends couldn’t do. They even made an agreement with us and our vet when we boarded our elderly dog that if she died and they couldn’t reach us immediately, they could take her to the vet’s and the vet would take care of it.

    Furthermore, Donna should have followed up with you later about the scheduling rather than assume that her priorities were also your priorities. I wouldn’t be anxious to remain as close as I’d been to somebody who escalates something so trivial to this degree.

  82. I think the catsitting is a symptom of a larger issue: you basically came out and said Vivian is a dearer friend than Donna is, and Donna is hurt.

    And there’s nothing wrong with you saying that, particularly in the case where you can/do see Donna all the time and it takes special effort to see Vivian, and you’ve known Vivian longer anyway – but I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable for Donna to be a little upset if it turns out she thinks of your friendship differently from you.

    That said, her reaction is WAY over the top, especially after you apologized for the mixup. It would definitely be a sign to me that I should pull back from Donna and not entangle our lives (and our cats’ lives) so closely.

    1. LW didn’t, though. Sure, it does sounds like Vivian IS a dearer friend than Donna is/was, but I’d hardly say the LW basically came out and said that. What they basically came out and said was, “Vivian is a dear friend I don’t see very often, and I care more about this trip to spend time with her than I do about catsitting for you on a given occasion.” Not “I care more about her than I do about you.”

      Donna may have taken it as a friendship referendum, but if so, that’s a matter of her and her anxieties/insecurities/etc, not inherent to what the LW said and did. (I don’t think that’s at the root of this, to be clear; it sure sounds to me like Donna has a raging case of entitlement to LW’s time and energy, even if it’s bolstered by genuine miscommunication about the level of schedule confirmation that had happened and genuine anxiety about alternate arrangements.)

      1. That was my read too, that the LW doesn’t get to see Vivian very often. And if my closest local friend and I had almost anything planned, even just about up to the day, and they had the opportunity to go visit their very close longtime long-distance friend, I would absolutely be like “Go! Have a great time! I can figure things out here / we can reschedule!”

  83. Jesus. I have two cats. My mother has two cats. We live about 5 kilometres from one another, and I pet-sit for her regularly when she travels (I travel less often for money reasons, but she always pet-sits on the occasions I do go away). We usually don’t even *ask* each other several months ahead. I’d say, like, a month at most.

    In the event of a communication misfire, I can see some indignance, especially if the travelling person suddenly needs to make new pet-sitting plans…but this level of conflict? Uh, no. We’d move on and hire a pet sitter (with the person “bailing” on the plans possibly helping out, especially if the change is on short-notice). I’d imagine mortified apologies. But not days of “can’t let this go” “high anxiety” “deeply upset” etc etc. *And she asked you to cancel your flight to look after her cat??*

    Something else is going on with Donna. Either she’s unhappy with something else in the friendship and this is an easy issue to pin it all on, or she has some unrevealed anxiety that’s manifesting in her cat-care, or… I don’t even know. But she’s way over-reacting.

  84. OP, Donna is being unreasonable.

    My old neighbor and I used to check on each other’s cats when the other was away for a few days. And now that I’ve moved, I hire one of the staffers at my vet’s office who offers pet sitting services. She watched my cat, petted and brushed him, fed him, played with him, and watered my garden. She was great! And she has lots of experience with cats, being a vet tech.

    This shouldn’t be difficult for Donna to handle, and if it is, it isn’t your problem. There may be something else fueling this but it’s on her to figure it out.

  85. You can delegate a task, but you cannot delegate a responsibility. Your friend has a responsibility to her cat, not you. It really is on her to have a backup plan; any caregiver must. I’m so sorry she’s acting this way, OP. This isn’t a marriage, and the cats aren’t children. You did not betray anyone. I think you can safely point to changes in your life (busy, stressed) as reasons why you need to opt out of the old arrangement. It’s nice that it worked for so long and so well, but times change.

    I hope you both can find cat care and have a great trip; it would be so nice if you could keep the friendship, too.

    FWIW I found a cat sitter on my NextDoor. It was nice to know of someone very local who others could vouch for.

  86. OP, Donna is being really unreasonable. Asking if you might be available does not give her dibs on your time forevermore.

    Also, you say that you really don’t remember having some of these talks/email exchanges with her where you supposedly agreed on the dates. Is it possible that she is exaggerating a bit? This just sounds unlikely to me. You may be getting a guilt trip from Donna that is being inflated for dramatic effect. That could be part of the reason you are wanting to back away from the friendship. It just feels off somehow.
    To be clear, it would not be ok behavior on Donna’s part even if it isn’t exaggerated.

  87. You could consider offering to pay for the cat sitting services, and that’s about it, if I read that right. Since you unintentionally “threw her under the bus.” If she can’t accept that, that is her problem, not yours. Keep your door open, but don’t initiate and only talk about positive things unless she wants to apologize. Do let her apologize if she wants to though.

    1. LW did not in any way leave Donna in the lurch (I think that’s what you meant, rather than “throw under the bus”). Donna asked a question about LW’s availability but never said anything further. It’s Donna’s responsibility to confirm her plans.

    2. I don’ t think that is the best way to deal with this. Giving in to the manipulation is just going to make it worse, creating a greater sense of entitlement. Even if Donna is being truthful & not exaggerating (unlikely) OP is not an employee, and gave months of notice for Donna to find another cat sitter. Donna is being presumptuous and manipulative.

      Even if I might have been inclined to agree with Donna (I wasn’t), one thing really stood out to prevent that. Donna asked the OP to change OP’s travel plans & plane tickets so she could watch Donna’s cat! WTF?

      I understand that people love their pets. I love my own 2 cats. I don’t travel because they are 18 years old and one has kidney disease. She needs subcutaneous fluids every other day. I am happy to stay home with her because she is my kitty and I love her. However, I would never ask anyone *else* to change their own travel plans to take care of her.

      Cares_About _Others, you are clearly a kind hearted person. I disagree in this case about OP paying for Donna’s pet sitter, but I think that you yourself are giving your opinion in a spirit of generosity and caring, and I applaud that. Jedi hugs! 🙂

      1. Sorry, I referred to OP as she, but I was thinking of Donna and got confused with which pronouns to use for which person. I don’t think OP actually specified which pronouns, and I didn’t want to assume. That was unintentional and I apologise. Sometimes my brain runs ahead of my typing and then I mess up what I am really trying to say.

  88. I’m so glad I ran across this post. It’s therapeutic to hear someone tell my story. I lived this same fiasco. I was left with feelings of bewilderment, shame, sadness, outrage, despair, longing, elation, and remorse. I still remember telling Diane and Jean what had happened, let me tell you, they had their opinions on it. Thank you for coming forward and telling you (and our) story. #meowtoo

    1. Although LW is discussing a situation specific to them (I see some people using “she/her” pronouns to refer to LW; this strikes me as a hasty assumption to make), nevertheless there is indeed something quite universalizable about the experience, as you suggest. I concur that the human experience can contain moments where we find ourselves utterly disoriented and fundamentally mystified by the behavior of another. It’s simply outside the grasp of our phenomenology. The spectrum of emotions it inspires is indeed vast and, as you say, sometimes diametrically opposed—even wildly and nonsensically so! It’s hard to know how to proceed and sometimes it rankles and maybe even “itches” at us, in a way. But I’m glad to hear you had such good friends like Jean and Diane to help you process your experience.

      As others have alluded to here, sometimes things and events can become psychic containers for other problems — perhaps Donna’s attachment to her cat represents a loss of her locus of control in other aspects of her life.

      1. Chidi, I feel like you truly understood what I’m saying. As it sounds like you, much like myself have been in the pit of despair with the heights of elation just itching at our souls. The feelings that this conjures up are what any person with a beautiful soul as yourself would feel, exuberance , annihilation , soul fulfillment, sorrow, calmness, pity, envy, randy, indignation, astonishment and of course modesty. Your words have touched us all and we will grow not only from them, but through them. Jean says hi. #meowtoo

  89. Finding someone to sit for my pets is why I pretty much just plan on taking them with me. I rarely go somewhere for just a day or two, but if I did go somewhere for one night, they wouldn’t notice, and if I were gone for TWO nights and absolutely no one, not even a vet, was available and it was impossible to take them with me, then I’d double up on their food and water bottles and they’d entertain themselves pretty well but be dying to get out of their condo to play the minute I got home. But they are ferrets, and pretty elderly by ferret standards, so they sleep 3/4 of the time and the other 1/4 they can entertain themselves pretty well together, and don’t hog out despite being free-fed nor spill their food or water very often.

    It is definitely a pain finding a rental place that will accept them and their huge hutch cage thing, despite their good behavior &c, but they are excellent traveling companions, thankfully, once the “we hate the travel cage, ugh, no fair” scritching dies down in the back seat, and they are very independent all the time.

  90. LW, if this is WAY out of character for Donna, there may be something else going on you don’t know about that makes even minor frustrations unbearably awful for her right now. This does not behoove you to fix anything, as you didn’t do anything wrong. It was a miscommunication. If she’s hurting over something else, then any little pebble in her shoe is going to feel like a knife in her heel right now, and that is NOT on YOU, but might explain why she flipped out over a catsitting conflict.

    I do not blame you for saying “this is WAY too much drama for me” and noping out, but if you suspect there’s a bigger underlying issue going on, maybe sweep aside the catsitting agita and see what’s going on, if she’ll let you in and if you’re open to that. Really all depends on how much of a friend and how close you were, and whether there’s anything outside of catsitting exchanges that you’d want to salvage.

    I was once so beat-up by the world that I begged a friend to deal with a shady rare CD seller online for me after the import they sold me arrived with the silver shiny part with the noise in it peeling off from the clear roundy part that the silver noisy bits are supposed to cling to, and I got a little butthurt when she didn’t want to. We were both pretty young and I had sticking-up-for-myself issues whereas she was so assertive and good at dealing with people like that! I had physical/emotional/mental bullshit ruining my life at that moment! I just wanted one little thing to go right in my life! I’d done similar favors for her before, lots of times! Why was this particular favor a problem?! (That CD never got exchanged, because I figured out I was being ridiculously presumptuous and apologized, but I also never had the spoons to deal with the stupid CD.) It is very likely that Donna will double or triple-down and continue to feel mad and punitive about this, but there’s also a chance that she will realize she is being unreasonable due to her personal issues going on, and back-off, maybe even with an apology.

    I’m hoping she’s just having a bad brain moment and will chill out when things settled down in her life.

    All that said, you have the absolute right to never cat-sit for her or anyone else ever again. Like CA said, sometimes paying someone some money is the cheapest solution to a problem.

    1. I have a friend who is much like Donna (and had a similar sort of argument with a mutual friend of ours that actually ended that friendship) and can say emphatically ‘exhausting’ is exactly the right word.

      LW – whatever Donna’s reasons for her feeling ‘distressed’ are not your problem. You apologised, you were sympathetic. You offered solutions. You did what a friend would do. If this triggered drama in her head then she needs to work on that, not make it your problem OR your fault.

  91. Does anyone else get the feeling that when Donna saw the “are you going to be here on X weekend” and “I should be” texts she was also surprised at how unclear it was and that all this bluster is covering up her surprise?

    I think we have all had some text and/or email conversation in which we are sure that we agreed on something or said a specific thing, get mad at the person who said we didn’t, and then look back at the conversation and realize the actual text wasn’t anywhere near as clear as we thought it was. A smart and mature person would admit the ambiguity, but I have to admit that I’ve done that thing where I pretended the ambiguous text was clear because I didn’t want to back down.

    1. That had crossed my mind.
      Not responding at all then and there to LW’s “bummer I can’t watch your cat” and then raising a ruckus by text the next day is just off. Then “change your plane tickets so you can watch my cat even though I have months to make other plans” is extreme to the point of wtf.
      Whether Donna has a problem with LW or Donna’s just losing her spoons and LW’s just catching the brunt of the breakdown, this is about more than cat-sitting.

      1. You’re probably right. If they do have a big hash-it-out conversation I have a feeling the phrase, “You always do this” will be used.

  92. If you do decide to end the reciprocal arrangement (and I wouldn’t blame you a bit), you’re probably best off doing that now, by whatever means of communication she’s least likely to ignore.

    1. She’s already pissed at you, might as well get the next fight over with so y’all don’t make up and then you get more OUTRAGE the next time she asks if you’re available.

    2. If she ends the friendship entirely over that, well, then you’ll know you don’t need to waste any more headspace over her.

    3. In a way, the timing will be a kindness – if she knows now that you’re off the table as a catsitter going forward, it might help motivate her to find a professional or similar solution rather than default to ‘FINE, I’LL JUST CANCEL MY TRIP THEN’, since she’ll need to do this eventually anyway. (There’s been lots of great advice about how to go about it in this thread, which you can pass along to her if things warm up.)

    4. If so desired, you can couch it in the form of another apology. ‘Donna, just wanted to let you know that I’m going to stick with [person/place who will be minding your cats on the weekend in question] for my catsitting needs in the future – I would feel terrible about asking you, given that I can no longer in good conscience offer to reciprocate, being in a really terrible place re: keeping track of commitments due to [giant flame-pit personal life reasons]’.

  93. On the subject of whether or not it’s okay to leave a cat with ample water, a timed food dispenser, and a clean litter box for a weekend– One weekend is not the problem. It’s that travel out of town is one of the more unpredictable things in our lives. A hurricane in a part of the country where we’re NOT traveling can upset air schedules enough to delay a flight home by days. Car and train mechanical failures can have us living in faraway motels for days too. When those things happen in town, it’s relatively easy to find an alternate way home. When they happen when we’re out of town, what should be a frustrating situation turns into an absolute frantic one as we try to find a way to keep the cat alive when we can’t be there.

    1. For just such occasions, I think it’s good practice to have someone nearby who has a key to your place anyway. Should I find myself in a situation of “oh crap, I thought I’d be gone a day or two, but now I’m stuck for XYZ reasons, what about my cats??” I’d probably call (or get a message to) my mother, who can access my apartment, and make sure my pets are looked after until I can get back. If the unforeseen disaster was so bad that phone/internet/every method of contact was out, that would probably be a fairly newsworthy event, and thankfully my mother would likely be prescient enough to check on the cats herself until I could get a message to her or get back. I’ll also note that AFAIK, professional pet-sitters just come until the pre-arranged date, then stop – they’re not checking in to make sure you got home when you said you would. A friend looking in on your pets might do this, but may not think to.

      Thankfully as well, cats in particular are survivors if nothing else. They can go quite some time without water, and even longer without food (I know a story with some acquaintances, where Person A *thought* it was clear that Person B would mind the cat for a week while A was gone. B, it turned out, had no idea he was supposed to be doing this until the day A was returning and messaged to thank him. B *raced* over, cat was cranky but fine). I’m not saying I’d feel *good* about that situation, but barring elderly or medical issues, cats can be pretty hardy creatures when the unexpected happens.

  94. Wow. My roommate and I have a similar arrangement (we both have dogs, so if one of us is going to be away or out late, we do a quick check-in and that’s that) but if we’re both gone, we have multiple people (such as my girlfriend) who could do it in a pinch. There is something major going on for her here if she’s so deeply offended and using that kind of language over cat-sitting.

    My ex, on the other hand, when we lived together, would regularly disappear for entire weekends with no notice, expect me to take care of their THREE pets, and have a fit if I ever asked them to return the favor. (This includes after we broke up but they hadn’t moved out yet — they decided that their solution to the breakup that they initiated was to regularly abandon their animals and go on vacations every weekend with their new SO, then complain they couldn’t afford to move out.)

    Takes all kinds, I guess.

  95. LW/Tail of Two Kitties here!

    I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the thoughtful replies.

    Donna and I had a chance to talk more since the letter was posted. Captain and all of you lovely members of the commentariat had identified several issues that were going on. For one, Donna was upset about my mere willingness to go on another trip after I had agreed to cat sit for her — she doesn’t feel that it’s acceptable behavior to do this and she said that she would never schedule a vacation during a weekend she agreed to cat sit for me (this makes me wonder about what some of you had said — that perhaps she’s been bending over backwards for me this whole time and staying mum about it). So, there’s definitely a mismatch in expectations here.

    For two, and this is probably the biggest issue, the idea that “something else” is *really* going on seems to be at play here as many of you have suggested. After talking to her, she genuinely believes she has zero other options for cat-sitting. This is even after I told her about some mutual friends who I had spoken with and agreed to help in this situation! The way she feels about it is that I can find other cat sitters and she can’t, she can’t leave her cat with a random stranger, and she can’t board her cat at a kennel. Why? Because, she hasn’t told me this before, but her “life depends on” her cat and her cat is “keeping her alive.” Obviously, after she disclosed this, I became worried and asked if she wanted to talk about the fact that she is basically telling me she is not okay. She said she doesn’t “expect me to be responsible” for her cat but the whole discussion is closed and we are definitely not going to talk about the fact that her cat is keeping her alive.

    So, at this point, I’ve decided that this whole thing is beyond me – she says I’m not responsible yet she’s implying that I’m the one person who can make this situation better. I want to be supportive of my friend who might be in trouble, but at the same time I don’t want to be responsible for her well being via her cat. I will carry through with one last cat sitting assignment I had firmly agreed to that’s coming up before the fall trip and then, after that, I am done. Exactly how I tell her this, I haven’t decided given the new information, but if nothing else — perhaps she will learn in way that sounds very challenging for her that everything WILL be okay if I don’t cat sit her cat.

    1. Whoa, back up the Nopetopus and head for the hills.

      If Donna’s cat is keeping her alive and you’re the only one who can care for the cat, Donna is trying to make you literally responsible for her life. You can’t do that. Obviously. I’ve been there where my critters were keeping me alive – I call them my life insurance – so I’m sympathetic to her, but she cannot off-load that responsibility onto you. It’s not fair to you, and doesn’t work anyway. You can be a supportive friend and listen, but if she’s not ready to talk, all you can do is carry on as usual so she knows you’re there.
      If her cat is keeping her alive, sounds like she needs professional help,

      I think your plan to take care of the cat this one last time and then tell her she has to hire a pro cat sitter is a good idea. Who knows, maybe sometime in future she’ll be in a healthier place and you can resume being cat sitting buddies, but not now.

      1. + 1 Agreeing to cat sit as a mutual convenience is not the same as agreeing to cat sit and if you don’t it is perceived as a threat to someone’s life, for so so many reasons. It’s tough on Donna, but Donna’s situation is tough either way, and OP taking on an impossible task cannot be the solution.

    2. Egad no. What BigDogLittleCat said. It’s a mathematical formula: You = only possible cat-sitter + Cat = life-support –> You = only possible life support. And then she says “And that’s the end of that discussion”?! NOPE nope nopitty-nope-nope. She is unilaterally deciding (a) how important you are to her, and (b) how important she is to you. She is not giving you a vote.

      You get a vote.

      I think you need to tell her NOW that your next cat date will be your last one, not wait until afterward. The sooner she can start processing this fact, the better — for you and for her.

      “Being held responsible for your well-being is way above my pay grade — way above any friend’s pay grade. You need more help than it is possible for me, or any layperson, to give. You need professional help and you need it now. For both you and the kitty. I will be taking care of Kitty on [dates], but that will be the last time, precisely because you have gotten my cat-sitting incorrectly conflated in your mind with your survival. I have never agreed, and cannot agree, to take that on for you or any other friend. Or my mom or my dad or my sibling or my significant other or…..”

      1. Yes to everything except I’d make the last cat sitting LW did, be the final one. That lady doesn’t sound at all normal.

  96. So much drama!
    I guess the LW has simply done too good a job at pet sitting. I started using professional pet sitters years ago after my relatives (whom I paid, by the way) did things like: letting my mother take the keys and coming home to find that she’d boiled hundreds of dollars worth of silk blouses and wool sweaters in her washing machine, having part of the hardwood floor permanently damaged by an upstairs leak because my sister put towels on the wet patch and just left them there instead of simply wringing them out, finding my furniture rearranged…. stuff like that, stuff LW probably wouldn’t think to do in a million years.
    I didn’t blame them, I just stopped using them. The pro pet sitters are all qualified veterinary technicians, so they could do things like administer insulin or meds if for some reason I needed that. They don’t charge *that* much and I consider their bill as part of my vacation expenses. If LW’s friend can’t afford that extra $20 a day, or whatever it costs where they live, then she can’t really afford a vacation.


    *Never* leave a cat in a situation where it might have to go any length of time without food, *especially* if the cat is fat. When a cat’s body goes into “starvation” mode where it draws on fat stored in the body, the cat is at risk of developing hepatic lipidosis (aka fatty liver disease), a potentially fatal liver disease. Even if the cat survives, the disease usually results in life-long health issues.

    The fatter the cat, the more prone they are to the disease, so never think “she can live off her fat for a few days.” An obese cat can develop a fatal condition after only two or three days without food. It all depends on the individual cat, but the only way to find out is the hard way.


    (Captain, I hope it’s okay to post this, but comments about cats’ being able to get along a few days on their own always make me nervous.)

    1. I’ll second that! One of my cats once had hepatic lipidosis and it was a real ordeal. We never did find out why he stopped eating, but once they do it’s a snowball effect — the more fat accumulates on their liver, the more it kills their appetite. Thankfully, he did make a full recovery. I had to put his food through the blender and feed him through a tube for around a week until he started eating again.

  98. Oh man, Captain, I am so sorry about your cat.

    Also, LW, your friend is acting entitled and weird.

  99. My cat had never been boarded or been cared for by anyone but family or a close neighbour/friend for the first 10 or so years I had her (I got her as an adult cat). Then through a variety of sad dramas she ended up spending 3 weeks being boarded at the vet – much longer than was originally anticipated when she went there. The cat is extremely stranger adverse. I imagined the whole time she was at the vet she was probably curled up in the cage, extremely miserable, jumping unhappily whenever another cat made a noise , and refusing all cuddles etc. (With people she knows she’s a very affectionate and talkative cat, who is fond of using her psychic powers to gain treats, tummy rubs & to tell me when I should go to bed)

    But she survived! From what they said at the vet’s when I collected her, I think my estimate of her scared behaviour was somewhat accurate, but she survived.

    Since I learnt she can handle it (however unhappy she is about it), I’ve been able to leave her there. It’s made things much simpler. I’d obviously still prefer the friendly neighbour for a night or two – because she is so stranger adverse, but knowing that the vet’s boarding cattery is a viable back-up option is great.

    It’s entirely possible that Donna, too, will be a lot happier to know that there’s another option that actually works. And two nights (rather than the 24 or so that my cat ended up with) is a great way to start. My point is that Donna probably won’t truly understand it’s a viable option until she’s tried it and found that it works.

  100. Donna has made me so tired.

    I hope Donna finds a great cat-sitter whom she can pay to wear the hell out, and stop wearing you the hell out, OP.

  101. Donna is putting an incredible amount of responsibility onto you, in a way that isn’t fair at all. While it sounds as if she may have some kind of issues going on, that and those excessive expectations she has of you is not your responsibility. She sounds super draining, and her anger at you over this when she had months to find another cat sitter and her refusal to consider any other solution other than you seems really toxic and off.

    As a person with some diagnosed severe mental health issues myself – whatever issues Donna has, they are her own to manage, and it is not fair or appropriate for her to be pushing them onto you in this alarming way. Personally I’d be quietly backing away from this friendship, to protect my own mental health from those exhausting expectations.

  102. Ok I can’t believe I’m saying this but I don’t fully agree with CA here. She’s not wrong but just far too nice. You didn’t make a mistake you gave a tentative ‘probably’ and with her rather insanely stringent requirements on who can sit the cat she should have followed up. Instead she spaced and then made it your problem. And then went ‘crazy cat lady’ on you. Not cool. You may want to revisit the friendship but mostly I’d say yes to never trading cat sitting again. She will be unreasonably angry I predict but again not your problem. I wonder if your extreme kindness and apologies have contributed to her distort d sense that you owe her your time? Even when you’ve got plans. She’s being wildly inappropriate. I’m sorry.

  103. Sigh 1000x to this letter. I feel like there is Something Else Going On in Donna’s life and this somehow pushed a button that you didn’t know existed and shlabam! This happened. I’m so sorry. One of my very best friends had a situation like this where she made what she thought was an honest mistake/oversight/bonehead move and her friend took it veeeeeery personally and would just NOT STOP HARPING and using really intense relationship language and it was really hard for my friend, but she eventually did just have to leave it at “I’m so sorry I hurt you, I’ve done what I can to apologize/mitigate, please stop fixating on this, the ball is in your court.” It was gross and the friendship did significantly change, but it was also a significant relief when it was all over.

    ALSO, I cannot recommend enough hiring a pet sitter. Do your due diligence but they are the dang best. I am a high maintenance cat mama and it is very comforting to know that I can be just as high maintenance and picky as I want to be with someone I am paying. We use the same service/person regularly, so we’re friendly with them, but something about that money exchange/keeping it business makes me feel totally comfortable in asking for text photos at every visit, or being particular about stuff like heating up food, etc. It’s worth every penny.

    Good luck, and safe travels!

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